Last year I took part in Foodie Secret Santa, organised by the lovely Claire from Claire K Creations. I got all stressed about what to cook and how to post it that I wasn’t going to take part again. But then as I mentioned in this post, the food started arriving on the day of the Lindt Café siege in Sydney. It was very reassuring to have the sense of community that Foodie Secret Santa gave me when all that was happening. You can find what Claire and others made here.
So I am back again, but this time slightly more organised and less stressed. I went with a recipe that I made before – a good shortbread recipe and having been inspired by another recipe that I stupidly haven’t saved, I added some Chinese five spice to the mix to create spiced shortbread. I did work the shortbread a bit more than I normally do so it is a bit less crumbly and buttery than normal shortbread. But it meant everything held together better for cutting and shipping.
I also found some great cookie cutters that left imprints on the biscuits and after a brief thought flashed through my brain that I should make icing and ice the cookies I bought some writing icing from the local supermarket. My icing skills leave a lot to be desired but I think the biscuits didn’t turn out too badly for a first attempt. I also made some plain shortbread to plump out the present. The recipe for the plain shortbread I use is from here and it is the one the spiced shortbread is adapted from.
Like last year the think that stressed me out the most was packing the biscuits so they would arrive in one peace. Last year I made salted caramel sauce and while packing the biscuits was nowhere near as bad as working out something to post sauce in that wouldn’t break, I still spent ages googling how to package biscuits to post that I promptly ignored.
Cassie from Cassie Cakes was one of the recipients of my biscuits and shared a photo on instagram – it looked like aside from a slightly damaged star that the biscuits had arrived in one piece so I was very happy about that.
If you would like to see what others have made you can also check out the #foodiesecretsanta on instagram and twitter.
I was very happy and then promptly in sugar overload when I received salted caramel fudge from Roxanne of the Baking Dentist. I may have eaten the fudge slightly too quickly but it was just so delicious. I am trying to work out if I can sneak in trying out her recipe before Christmas.
Luckily my fridge has now been restocked with amazing gluten free brownies from Jacqui of Everyday Cook and super cute spice filled biscuits from Gabby of Baking with Gab. I am normally a bit of a gluten free skeptic but trust me when I say Jacqui has completely blown my perceptions of gluten free out of the water. The brownies are to die for.
Gabby’s biscuits are equally delicious with such cute decoration. They are inspired by speculaas that Gabby ate in Europe. Which was all a bit freaky as I fell in love with speculaas this year while holidaying in Germany and they are not dissimilar to the spiced shortbread I made. Great minds think alike!
- 200g butter, cut into small cubes and at room temperature (leave out for about 20 minutes)
- 100g sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 300g of plain flour
- 1 tsp of Chinese five spice
- Heat the oven to 160C (320F)
- Mix the butter and sugar with an electric hand beater or wooden spoon until it is creamy
- Add the vanilla and stir in well
- Add the five spice and stir in well
- Add the flour gradually making sure it is all well combined without over mixing but enough so that you have a batch that holds together for cutting with a cookie cutter. This is firmer than I would normally do for shortbread. Don't worry too much - mine were fairly firm and more like a traditional biscuit than shortbread. But still delicious.
- Sprinkle some flour on the kitchen benchtop
- Roll the flour until it is about 5mm thick. Try to get the thickness as even as possible as this will help them cook more evenly in the oven.
- Cut out the shortbread using cookie cutters. If you don't have cookie cutters I would just cut them in to rectangular finger length pieces.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper (don't spray with cooking spray - I did this with my first batch and the bottoms burnt.)
- Place the shortbread on the tray.
- Pop into the fridge for about 20 minutes to help them firm up.
- Pop the shortbread in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure you don't burn them.
- Once cooked, put them on a wire rack to cool.
- If you want to ice your cookies wait until they are nice and cool and then go wild.
Cook time includes everything except cooling and decorating. I was super slow to decorate but you may well be faster.
Cutting the shortbread was slower than normal with my fancy new cookie cutters, you can reduce the cooking time if you go with a more basic cutter.