With Christmas not far away now, what better way to get into the festive spirit than by baking biscuits?
Baking can be great fun for adults and children alike. It allows you to unleash your creativity in the kitchen while being able to eat the results – what’s not to like? Homemade biscuits always seem to taste that little bit nicer than shop bought ones, and of course they make great Christmas presents too!
Traditions are a wonderful thing but there’s no reason why you can’t raid other countries’ culinary cupboards for your baking escapades. There are literally thousands of different cookie recipes from all over the world you could try!
We’ve looked to our European cousins for some yuletide inspiration and discovered 5 easy peasy ideas you could try right now.
Portuguese Christmas Cookies (makes 24)
You need: 2 tbsp cornstarch, 200g sugar, 3 tbsp butter, 2 eggs, 330g flour, 2 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 165 C and line biscuit trays with baking parchment. Mix together the cornstarch and sugar, add butter and mix until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix flour and baking powder together, then stir into the sugar mixture until a dough forms. Roll the dough out to 0.5cm thick on a floured surface, then cut into Christmas shapes with biscuit cutters. Place the cookies onto baking trays, at least 3cm apart.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown at the edges. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
Italian Amaretti Biscuits (makes 12)
You need: 140g blanched slivered almonds, 190g sugar, 3 egg whites, 1 tsp almond extract
Preheat the oven to 150 C. Line baking sheets with non-stick parchment. Grind the almonds to a fine meal in a food processor, then add the sugar and mix for a further 15 seconds. Add egg whites and almond extract and process until a smooth dough has formed. Place well-rounded teaspoons of dough blobs onto the baking sheets making sure that they are spaced at least 4cm apart.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool before removing the paper.
Swedish Cookies (makes 12)
You need: 250g flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 225g butter, 200g sugar, 1 tsp vanilla sugar, 2 tbsp golden syrup
Preheat the oven to 175 C and prepare a baking tray with non-stick parchment paper. Sift together the flour and baking soda. In another bowl, mix together butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and golden syrup. Stir the flour into the mixture until just combined. Form two 2.5cm thick dough cylinders the length of the baking tray and place them onto the tray, making sure to leave as much space as possible between them.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown and flattened. Remove from oven and let cool for about 3 minutes before cutting diagonally into 4-5cm wide strips while still hot. Remove the individual cookies and place on a wire rack to cool.
German Vanilla Moons (makes 40)
You need: 250g plain flour, 5 tbsp caster sugar, 100g ground almonds, 225g butter, ½ tsp vanilla essence, icing sugar to coat
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Prepare several baking trays with non-stick parchment. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into small cubes, then add with the vanilla and quickly knead to a dough. Shape the dough into cylinders and cut off 1cm thick pieces. Shape each piece into a crescent and place on the baking tray.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool for 1 minute and carefully roll in icing sugar.
Pierniczki – Polish Gingerbread Cookies (makes 40)
You need: 170g honey, 1 pinch black pepper, ½ tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp allspice, 200g sugar, 600g flour, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp cloves, 4 eggs, 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in water
Preheat the oven to 180 C and line biscuit trays with baking parchment. Heat the honey until boiling point, then cool down until tepid. Sift flour and spices into a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until thick and creamy. Add the soda, then the honey, then the flour, and mix until well combined. Roll out the dough on a floured board to 0.5cm thick and cut into Christmas shapes with biscuit cutters. For Christmas tree decorations, make a hole in the cookie with a straw before baking.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Decorate as you wish once cooled.
Article provided by Mike James, taking inspiration from a selection of cooks and professional cake makers including Wimbledon specialist Cakes by Robin, who were consulted over the information in this piece.