Biscuit, Sweet

A gingerbread house alternative – 3 generations bake

Last year my parents bought me a gingerbread house mould as a present but unfortunately it was too near to Christmas for me to have the time to make one so this year my dad phoned me up and asked if I wanted to come round with the littlest happy baker and we’d bake the gingerbread house together.

My dad said he doesn’t like gingerbread, and i’m not particularly keen so we decided to make a gingerbread house out of non-gingerbread!  As my husband calls it a …house.

My dad suggested we try using shortbread but I thought this might be brittle so I decided we would just use a gingerbread recipe and instead of the ginger we would substitute it for cinnamon and I would make the roof out of shortbread to see if it is ok to use.  I am glad that in the end we went for a majority gingerbread mix because the shortbread was very heavy and brittle, like I thought.

My dad did get a little bored at one point and took the littlest baker out for a drive whilst I finished off baking the roof.

I left the decorating and building of the house to my dad, who was armed with white chocolate buttons and a bag of Harribo.  I think in my dads head he was going to make a really cool looking house with puffing smoke and windows – just like he had seen on the fabulous baker brothers christmas special program – what he actually made was this:

Alternative Gingerbread House

Well, the decorating is a little wonky but we had a good laugh making it and the good news is that today when we eat it, it should taste lovely.

We will definitely have to try again next year as it was lots of fun to do and not too difficult to make and the littlest baker likes the look of it (she’s wearing her Italy football shirt)

Alice admiring house

Alternative Gingerbread House

I used Rachel Allens’ recipe which can be found here for the walls – Gingerbread House and substituted the ground ginger for two tsp cinnamon and 1tsp Nutmeg

I used my 3,2,1 shortbread recipe for the roof

Biscuit, Sweet

Wholemeal sandwiched biscuits

At the moment when I have time to do some baking I want to make sure my recipe is quick and easy and something that I know will work.  I would be really sad if I spent the time trying a new recipe out only for it not to work! 

This recipe isn’t one I have ever done before but it used the basic principles of 3,2,1 shortbread biscuits but with a little bit of a twist.  I looked in the cupboard to see what I had thought I would try making wholemeal biscuits instead and since I had some chocolate icing I wanted to use up, I had an idea how I might put these together. 

You could do any shape you wanted but as I wanted small cookies I only had this shape cutter.

Wholemeal sandwiched biscuits

6oz strong wholemeal flour
1oz light brown sugar
1oz caster sugar
4oz margarine
Chocolate icing (for decoration)
Chocolate spread (for filling)

Pre-heat the oven to 160c Gas Mark 4

In a bowl cream together the margarine and sugar then stir in the flour.
When the mix begins to look like breadcrumbs, turn it out onto the side and use your hands to press it together into a dough.
Try not to mix it too much at this stage – you just need it to come together.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about £1 coin thickness (just over a cm)
Cut out an equal number of your shapes. I managed 24 using my cutter, enough for 12 biscuits.
Line them on greaseproof paper and bake in the oven till the edges brown slighty. This may take between 10-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the shapes.
Let them cool on a wire rack and using the same cutter, cut enough shapes needed out of the chocolate icing. Put the chocolate icing onto half of the cookies whilst they are still hot – this causes the icing to stick to the biscuits without having to ‘glue’ them with jam.

Once they have cooled you can begin assembly.
Take two cookies, 1 with icing and 1 without and sandwich them together with chocolate spread in the middle.

Easy peasy.

Biscuit, Sweet

3, 2, 1 – Simple Shortbread Cookies

This recipe has to be one of my go to recipes when I don’t have any eggs or much else in the house to bake with.

It is so simple because it only uses 3 ingredients, which I always have in the house no matter what – plain flour, margarine or butter and sugar.

They combine to make a lovely crisp shortbread which you can add anything else you want to taste or decorate however simply or creatively you are feeling.

It is a brilliant recipe for kids to do because it makes a dough similar feel to play-doh, and if you wanted to be creative (or a bit mad) you can add a little bit of food colouring to make some interesting looking shortbread. I think that any recipe that gets children enjoying baking has got to be a good thing.

The best part is that this recipe is just the base and it really cant go too wrong. The worst thing that can happen is that you overwork the dough (which might happen with children) and it will end up a little chewier, rather than crunchy, which isn’t the end of the world as it will still taste fab.

You can get a million and one different type of cutters as well nowadays so the only limitation is your imagination. I have Christmas cutters, animals, squares, circles, letters numbers, stars… !

Have fun and experiment, I guarantee you will make this loads of times.

3, 2, 1 Shortbread

The reason I have called this recipe 3, 2, 1 is because of the proportions you use.
It goes – 3 oz flour, 2 oz margarine or butter and 1 oz of sugar.

This will make a small batch which will do you a few cookies and to make more just double the recipe as long as you stick to the proportions.

Butter will give you a lovely rich flavour but if you don’t have it then it still works perfectly with margarine – just add a tiny drop of vanilla essence.

6oz plain flour
4oz margarine or butter
2oz sugar
(I also added a handful of chocolate chips to mine and also half a teaspoon of nutmeg and cinnamon)

Pre-heat the oven to gas 4 or 180c

Put the flour in a bowl along with the sugar and with a wooden spoon mix in the butter or margarine. For butter you might need to rub it in a little more with your fingers but with marg you can just stir it in with a wooden spoon.

[If you want to add food colouring or a flavour, add them now – I added the cinnamon and nutmeg]
When it is starting to look mixed together, put your hands into the bowl and press everything till it starts to combine into a dough. This will happen quite quickly.
If you are using a food processor then just put it all in together (I use the K beater on mine) and let the machine combine it to a dough – just be careful not to mix it too long.

When everything just about sticks together wrap the dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll out the dough till it is about the thickness of a £1 coin (or a 1€, or about a centimetre).
The thickness will also depend on what shape you are going to cut out. More intricate ones will need a slightly thicker dough, this isn’t a problem as you will just cook it for longer.

Cut out as many shapes as you can get out of your dough then re-roll and do the same again. Ideally you don’t want to roll it out more than 3 times but if they are for yourself then I always use up all of it – I hate waste!

Line up your cookies onto a baking sheet a couple of inches apart. They will grow a little during baking but not too much.
[If using, now is the time to add any toppings onto the cookies. I pressed chocolate chips into the top of mine]

Bake in the oven for about 15-25 minutes.

When ready they should look a little puffed up and browned lightly all over.
They will firm up a little when cooling but if the underside looks a bit doughy still then put them back in for 3-5 minutes.

When they have cooled decorate them however you like!

Other ideas what to do with this recipe:

Lemon shortbread – add the zest of the lemon and when cooled make a royal icing using some of the lemon juice to drizzle over

Pink or blue shortbread – add a little food colouring to the mix. Try and use a gel colouring as the liquids will make it sticky. They will loose a bit of their colour when cooked but are quite inspiring for children.

Decorated stars – make a plain shortbread mix and when cooled cut out colours of icing using the same shaped cutter and stick to the top with apricot jam

Chocolate Shortbread – remove a tablespoon of the flour and replace with a good tablespoon of cocoa powder.

Christmas spice – add half a teaspoon of nutmeg and half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a few well chopped up pieces of glace cherries.

Biscuit, Sweet

Moka Melting Little Kisses

For Christmas this year we were given a bottle of Caffe Moka Varnelli by my Auntie and Uncle, which is a delicious chocolate coffee liqueur.  Now, you probably haven’t heard of this or seen it in the shops as it isn’t something you can’t buy easily in the UK – it is Italian, and from the Marche region to be precise.

The Marche region is very special to our family as it is where my Italian side of the family come from and every year we go for our holiday there to the same little town, where we spend time with my Great Aunties, get some sun and eat… lots.

After tasting the liqueur last Christmas I knew that I really wanted to do some baking with it.  I originally decided on making a coffee cake and replacing the usual coffee with the Varnelli but after my mom looked through one of my recipe books she asked if I fancied making some ‘melting moments’ which are also sometimes called ‘Viennese Whirls’.

The recipe I have created is on the same lines as melting moment biscuit as it is very crumbly and melts in the mouth but I have made a few changes to the recipe to make it have a rich chocolate taste and a Caffe Moka buttercream filling instead of the recipe lemon.  The other big change that I have made is to change their appearance, though this has been through necessity and not through preference.
Usually these have a lovely swirl piped pattern to them, however, my biscuits were made by rolling a small amount of the mixture into a ball and then flattening onto the tray with my fingers.  I would have loved to have had beautiful piped swirls but I don’t have the right nozzle for my piping bag so it is a bit of a made do change.

I also changed the name as they now resemble Italian biscuits called Baci, which means kisses.

Moka Melting Little Kisses

This recipe will make about 14-20 complete cookies

250g margarine or Butter
50g Icing Sugar
210g Plain Flour
2 tbsp Coco Powder
75g Corn Flour
1 tbsp Caffe Moka Varnelli

For the buttercream filling:
60g margarine or Butter
75g Icing Sugar
2-3 tbsp Caffe Moka Varnelli (could be substituted with Tia Maria or instant coffee dissolved into boiling water and left to cool)

Mix together the butter or margarine together with the sugar until pale then stir in both flours, coco powder and Varnelli.

Either pipe the mixture onto a non-stick baking sheet using a wide star nozzle or measure out teaspoon amounts of the mix and roll in your hands till ball shaped, then flatten with your fingers.  This method can be a bit messy and sticky but instead of  adding flour, just roll quickly.  If it is too sticky then chill in the fridge first.

Bake in the oven set to Gas Mark 5, approx 190c for about 12-17 minutes.  The time will depend on how big or small your cookies are.  To work out if they are done they should be soft if pressed gently but with a little bounce in them.  They will set more as they cool on the rack.

Whilst cooling, mix the buttercream.  To do this combine all of the icing ingredients and beat in a bowl till lovely and fluffy.

Pipe the buttercream into swirls on one of the cookies then sandwich with a second one.

Finally, make a cuppa tea or coffee and enjoy your biscuits.  They will be extremely crumbly so handle with care.