I love Christmas, it is one of my favourite times of the year, and it is more special when you have little children who make it even more exciting. Cooking Christmas treats was always a wonderful tradition before Christmas, especially as it was usually cold outside! Creating cookies and cupcakes with your children as presents for family and friends or to decorate the tree is a wonderful way to spend time together. Put the gifts in boxes or wrapped in cellophane tied up with ribbon, children will be so proud of what they have made.
ANNABEL’S APRICOT COOKIES
Suitable for freezing • MAKES 18 COOKIES
These are my son Nicholas’s favourite cookies they are a rather unusual but irresistible combination of dried apricots, cream cheese and white chocolate.
• 100g (4oz) unsalted butter
• 100g (4oz) cream cheese
• 100g (4oz) caster sugar
• 65g (2½oz) white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate
• 50g (2oz) chopped dried apricots
• 75g (3oz) plain flour
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy.
Gradually add the flour, then fold in the apricots and chocolate. The dough will be quite soft – don’t worry!
Drop the mixture by heaped teaspoons onto non stick baking sheets or lined baking sheets and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
Allow to cool and harden for a few minutes before removing them from the baking sheet.
HOT RUBY FRUIT SALAD
This warm fruit compote has a wonderful flavour due to the rose water, and the pomegranates add a crunchy texture that complements the berry fruits beautifully.
• 1 large ripe peach
• 2 large ripe red plums
• 20g (¾oz) butter
• 2 tbsp caster sugar
• 1 tbsp rose water or orange flower water (can also use plain water)
• 75g (3oz) raspberries
• 50g (2oz) redcurrants
• 75g (3oz) blackberries
• 1 pomegranate, cut in half and de-seeded
Halve the peach and plums, remove the stones and cut each half into four pieces.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and place the plums and peach slices into the butter. Cook for 2-3 minutes turning over and sprinkling with the sugar.
Cook for a further 2-3 minutes and then pour over the rose or orange flower water. Gently stir in the remaining fruits and heat through for approximately 1 minute.
SNAZZY SNOWMEN CUPCAKES
From 2 years • Prep time 35 mins • Cooking time 20 mins
Makes 8 to 10 Cupcakes • suitable for freezing without decoration
These are fun for children to make themselves. You can line boxes or tins with shredded cellophane or some tissue paper and nestle your decorated cakes inside.
• 100g (4oz) softened butter
or soft margarine
• 100g (4oz) golden caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• 100g (4oz) self-raising flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp vanilla essence
• icing sugar for dusting
• 150g ready to roll white icing
• 3 tbsp apricot jam
INGREDIENTS – Decoration
• Red Fizzy Lances for the scarves
• Tubes of coloured Writing Icing (available in supermarkets)
• Sugar baubles (for cake decoration) or silver baubles
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/fan oven 160ºC/300ºF. Place the softened butter or margarine, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla essence into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for a few minutes until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy.
Line a bun tin with 8 paper cases and divide the mixture between them, filling the cases about two thirds full. Bake for about 20 minutes until the fairy cakes are risen and lightly golden. Lift the cakes (still in their paper cases) out of the tins and leave them to cool on a wire rack.
Dust a clean working surface with icing sugar and roll out the icing to about 5mm/1/4". Cut out 8 circles using a small pastry cutter that is the same size as the top of your cakes. Put the apricot jam into a small dish and stir in 1 tablespoon of hot water, then brush this over the surface of the cakes and stick the circles of icing on top.
To decorate the cakes use marshmallows for the heads, black writing icing for the eyes, red writing icing for the smiles and sugar baubles for noses (stick them on with a blob of writing icing). Stick the heads on the cakes using a little apricot jam, then stick on the sugar bauble buttons.
Wrap Fizzy Lances around the necks for scarves.
CHRISTMAS PUDDING TRUFFLES
From 2 years • Prep time 50 mins plus 1 hour chilling time
Makes 18 large truffles • Not Suitable for freezing
Truffles always make a nice present and these ones can be dressed up to look like mini Christmas Puddings. If you don’t have time to decorate them then just dust the truffles with cocoa. Put each truffle in a mini muffin case and sit it in a small box, tied with a ribbon. Store in the fridge.
INGREDIENTS – Truffles
• 125g (41/2 oz) dark chocolate
• 75g (21/2 oz) unsalted butter
• 200g (7oz) Madeira cake (or loaf cake)
• 50g (2oz) glacé cherries, halved
• 50g (2oz) raisins
• 25g (1oz) pecans
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 tbsp icing sugar
INGREDIENTS – Decoration
• 50g (2oz) ready to use fondant icing
• red and green food colour
• 110g (4oz) icing sugar
• 1/2 tsp meringue powder or dried egg white powder (optional to make icing stiffer)
• 4 tsp water
• 2 tbsp icing sugar
Put the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and melt together over a saucepan of warm water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water), stirring occasionally. You can also melt the chocolate in a microwave using 15 second bursts and stirring between each burst (it will probably take 3-4 bursts). Set aside to cool slightly.
Put the Madeira cake in a food processor and whiz to crumbs. Add the cherries, raisins and pecans and pulse 5-6 times until roughly chopped (if you like larger pieces then chop the fruit and nuts by hand). Tip the crumb mixture into the bowl of chocolate and add the vanilla and icing sugar. Stir until thoroughly combined. Put the truffle mixture into the fridge for around 1 hour, to firm up.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or clingfilm. Take tablespoonfuls of the truffle mixture and roll them into balls, using the palms of your hands. Sit the rolled truffles on the prepared baking sheet. When you have finished rolling the truffles put the baking sheet in the fridge for another hour, or overnight, to allow the mixture to firm up again.
To decorate the truffles first make the “holly”. Colour 1/4 of the fondant icing red and then roll out 36 small balls. Colour the remaining fondant green and roll out thinly (you can do this between two pieces of clingfilm if it gets too sticky. Cut out 36 holly leaves. Sit the decorations on a plate lined with clingfilm.
Put the icing sugar in a bowl (and stir in the egg white powder, if using). Add half of the water and stir in, then add extra water, a couple of drops at a time, to make a stiff icing. Drop 1/2 teaspoon icing on the top of a truffle and use a cocktail stick or the tip of a knife to spread the icing out a little. Allow to dry slightly, then sit two holly berries and leaves on the top of the truffle. Repeat with remaining truffles then return the truffles to the fridge and leave for 3-4 hours, or overnight, to allow the icing to set. If any of the decorations drop off then they can be fixed back with a little extra icing.