The Christmas period is a wonderful time to get in the kitchen and have some baking fun, making the most of the classic scents and flavours of the season. Here, two of our favourite Great British Bake Off finalists – Miranda Gore Browne and Mary-Anne Boermans – offer seasonal inspiration, with their tips and ideas for quick and easy Christmas cakes and bakes.
Mary-Anne Boermans – author of Great British Bakes: Forgotten Treasures for Modern Bakers
These Christmas baking ideas are all incredibly simple, but make perfect gifts.
Use lots of ginger: The link between ginger and Christmas is a strong one, so bake some spiced gingerbread, biscuits or cake, and fill your house with the festive aroma.
Ginger biscuit Xmas puddings: Bake some of your favourite gingerbread biscuits in circles. I've used my own recipe for Honeycomb Gingerbread, and cut circles in the paste before it was baked. Melt 200g white chocolate, add 1 tablespoon of clarified butter and grate in the zest of a lemon (lemon and ginger is a classic combination). When the cooked biscuits have cooled, dip half of each biscuit in the lemon white chocolate and decorate with ‘holly’ made from cranberries and angelica.
Ginger cake Xmas puddings: Use a really dark and glossy gingerbread - Eliza Acton's coconut gingerbread is ideal - and bake bite-size pieces using a mini-muffin tin. Top with the same melted chocolate mixture and decorate as above. Alternatively, pipe the decoration using fondant icing.
Snowflake Meringues: Use my recipe for Lace Meringues (p81 in Great British Bakes) and make 5cm star shapes. Cut holes in the stars using small sugarpaste cutters and bake as usual. You will end up with pretty snowflake shapes. You can use one snowflake meringue star as a delicate cupcake topper.
Biscuits: Home-made anything is delicious, so whatever you take the time and effort to make, wrap it in clear plastic and tie with a jolly ribbon and sit back and enjoy the compliments - you deserve them!
Chocolate: Everything is better with chocolate, so dip or coat your favourite biscuit with some good-quality tempered chocolate (70% minimum cocoa solids).
Another option is to make some candied peel and dip it in chocolate for some sophisticated nibbles that really pack a flavour punch. Fabulous for presents, too.
Here are some simple, but lovely ideas to decorate home-made Christmas gingerbread biscuits.
When the gingerbread comes out of the oven (and is still piping hot), use a wooden skewer or a straw to make a hole in the top of each biscuit. When the biscuits are cool and hard, thread a thin ribbon through each biscuit. They look beautiful simply hung on the Christmas tree as they are, but can also be decorated...
For Christmas trees, put blobs of white icing on the boughs to make lights or wiggles of icing to suggest tinsel and then sprinkle on edible glitter or Christmas sprinkles.
For angels, decorate the wings with white icing then dust with white dusting sugar for a heavenly finish.
For snowflakes, spread icing all over the biscuits then sprinkle with white edible glitter.
For reindeer, use icing to stick on a red smartie for his nose.
Cut out large shapes and pipe a child's name in the middle, put in a cellophane bag tied with ribbon and give the biscuity decoration to friends over Christmas to hang on their tree.
Christmas biscuit bunting:
Using a recipe for gingerbread that sets hard (see recipe on p182 in my book, BISCUIT), make a batch of gingerbread mixture. Cut 17 large triangles (at least 8 cm long) from the gingerbread and bake in the oven - this will give you enough pieces of bunting to have a triangle at each end and one for each letter of the words Happy and Christmas. A soon as the biscuits come out of the oven, use a skewer or straw to make a hole in the two top corners of the short side of the biscuit. Once the biscuits are cool and completely hard, use a festive ribbon to thread them together, placing a knot between each piece of biscuit to stop them knocking together. Ice each letter of HAPPY CHRISTMAS onto a triangle of biscuit, and decorate with Christmas sprinkles.
Christmas biscuit door wreath.
Make or buy the Christmas wreath for your front door. Make gingerbread biscuits using small Christmas shape cutters (or a tiny gingerbread man shape looks very sweet), when the biscuits come out of the oven, make two holes in the middle of each biscuits so they look a bit like buttons (as above). Once the biscuits are completely cold, decorate simply then thread a piece of florists wire (or standard wire cut to about 30cm long) thorough the holes in the biscuit and carefully attach to the wreath. This is best for wreaths that are undercover or is a pretty addition to your wreath when friends are arriving at Christmas as otherwise they might be enjoyed by the birds!
Fun decorating with shop bought biscuits...
Round biscuits can be transformed into Christmas puddings by dipping the top in white chocolate then adding a holly and berry decoration made from icing.
Round biscuits can be made into pretty baubles by using a round cutter to cut circles out of coloured sugar paste, then use icing or melted chocolate to stick on sweeties or Christmassy decorations and edible glitter.
I hope you have lots of fun with these ideas!