This week I’m going to make a bold suggestion. Instead of queuing up at the shops, why not give a home-baked gift instead?
Every year I pull my hair out, trying to work out what to give family and friends. I walk aimlessly around monolithic shopping centres and to what end? I walk out dejected and despondent – unable to find just the right gift.
A couple of years ago when we were all feeling budget-challenged, my girlfriends and I resolved to make our Kris Kringle gifts instead of buying them. It was fantastic. It required thought and effort. That year I gave a jar of my first, backyard plum-tree jam. I received a beautiful Christmas angel painting that takes pride of place in my living room each year.
When you make a gift you give something of yourself. A beautifully presented box of di-licious home-baked biscuits could make you THE must have Secret Santa of the season.
These shortbread-style biscuits look like a slice of Christmas; bursting with red cranberries and merry green pistachios. Not overly sweet, they’re a perfect match with a well brewed cup of coffee.
The dough itself is simple enough to make but the assembly prior to baking is a process. You need to press in one layer of dough, chill, press in the second layer the dough, chill, cut and layer again, chill and then slice, chill again and finally, bake. These are best made ahead of time and frozen ready to bake at the height of the silly season. You’ll be glad you did.
Recipe: Cranberry & Pistachio Biscuits
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay
Makes approximately 60 biscuits
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
4 ½ cups plain flour, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
¼ cup milk
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten.
1 cup dried cranberries
1 ½ cups chopped pistachio nuts
20x30cm baking pan (lamington pan)
- Put on your favourite Christmas CD.
- Lightly grease and line a 20x30cm (7 ¾ x 12 inch) baking pan with baking paper, making sure the paper completely covers the sides of the tin. (Tip: use two sheets of paper, one 20cm wide and the other 30cm wide – lay them along the base of the pan to form a cross)
- Place the butter and icing sugar into bowl of your stand mixer and beat for approximately 8 minutes or until mixture is pale and creamy.
- Combine the milk, egg yolk, zest and vanilla and add this along with the flour to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined. The mixture will be crumbly – don’t stress!
- Divide the dough mixture in half and add the cranberries and pistachios to one, mixing well to combine. You’ll find that the dough has warmed up a bit and should come together really well now.
- Press the cranberry biscuit dough into the pan and smooth the top using a small rolling pin or flat sided wine bottle. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
- When firm, press the plain biscuit dough on top of the cranberry layer and smooth top (as above). It will feel like a lot less dough than the bottom layer and most likely take a bit more effort to spread out evenly. Refrigerate for a further 15 minutes. (You only want to partially set the dough here – I over chilled mine, making the next layer step harder.)
- With the aide of the overhanging baking paper, remove the partially chilled dough ‘sandwich’ from the baking tin.
- Cut the dough ‘sandwich’ in half. Place one half on top of the other (to form four layers) and press down gently. (Tip: use a spare baking tray to press down the dough to apply flat, even pressure) Refrigerate for 30 minutes til firm.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C and line at least 2 baking trays with baking paper.
- Now the fun part – cutting the biscuit slices. Through trial and error I found the easiest way to do this was to cut the slab into four 5cm wide pieces, and then cut each of these into 1cm slices. A sawing motion will help keep the layers together. If they come apart, don’t worry. Just press them gently back together again. Place the slices onto the prepared baking trays.
- Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Keep an eye on them. You want the biscuits to cook through but not be burnt on the bottoms.
- Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Y Di-licious Time Saving Tip Y
You can freeze unbaked cookies from the end of step 11. Simply put the tray in the freezer for 10-15 minutes til frozen. Transfer the frozen biscuits to a freezer-safe container, using baking paper or grease proof paper in between layers. Bake all or only some of the cookies straight from frozen whenever you need them in a 160°C oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden.