It's been a crazy, crazy week. That's the nature of the couple of weeks pre-Christmas, and this time around I squeezed five Christmas-related meals in between Tuesday and Saturday evening *pats food baby* On top of that, I was at work at 6:30am every day, spent about twelve hours there, and spent two of those days outside in 35-40oC heat. Suffice it to say that, come Friday, I was a little tiny bit exhausted.
But, being pre-Christmas, I had baking planned for my Friday night (plus making a salad for Saturday's Christmas lunch, which I will hopefully get around to posting before Christmas - it's a broccoli salad, and a surprisingly tasty one. Probably not much good for the Christmas dinner table for those in the Northern hemisphere, but for us Down Under it would go down well). The baking plan kind of failed when the supermarket neglected to deliver a couple of key items, and I ended up driving up to the supermarket to get them. D'oh! So I only ended up making the salad on Friday night, and it wasn't until I got home at 9pm Saturday night that I began my baking. 220-ish biscuits in four hours ain't bad!
Because I'm so wrecked and need to be in bed within ten minutes, I'll post the easy one. It's easy because I've made them before - it's the recipe for Margaret Fulton's Christmas Spice Biscuits that I made for my cousin's engagement party.
This time, instead of making pretty snowflakes and stencilling royal icing onto them, I made Christmas trees and piped royal icing on and glued some bits and pieces on instead. I used Heather's recipe for royal icing from her Sprinkle Bakes book (and I have to say, I don't think I've seen "stiff peak", "soft peak" and "flood" icing described so well before, so I recommend the book if only for that!).
It's more or less as I remember mum teaching me - two egg whites, a little lemon juice (2 tsp in this case), 3c sifted icing sugar (NOT soft icing mixture) plus half a teaspoon of whatever essence you want to use (I used peppermint this time). Once I had beated the heck out of it on low speed and achieved stiff peak icing (it stands up on its own) I then took half a silicone spatula's worth out (hah! What a detailed measurement!), dolloped it in a small bowl, coloured it using gel colour then added a single drop of water using a dropper, stirred it around and tested it (the peak now flopped over on itself) I imagine if you're using liquid colour you should DEFINITELY add it before the water because it may, in itself, water the mixture down... but as I said, that's what I imagine! Check your facts first, because it's a lot easier to water royal icing down than it is to thicken it up again.
This is me piping, and obviously getting distracted by having to take a photo with a DSLR with my left hand - note the big blob of icing coming out!
This is what I call Piping Grip - it's how I choose to hold the piping bag, and works well for me. You cradle the twisted part of the bag between your thumb and index finger and apply pressure with the remaining fingers. I've also been taught another way - use your two little fingers to keep the bag twisted, then rest the fat end of the piping bag in your palm - but I feel like I have more control this way.
60-something biscuits, plus the mixing bowl soaking my red piping tip (note the pink water!).
And now I've made them pretty, with cachous (mind your teeth!) and candy-cane shaped sprinkles (which actually taste like peppermint) which I seem to recall I got from Baking Pleasures (although they don't appear to be in stock at present, which is kind of a moot point anyway because they're closed for Christmas!)
I can't decide which I like better - the red
or the green?
I think the green ones are more appropriate, but the red have more of a visual impact when you're presenting them. Plus I seem to recall reading that "cool" colours and neutrals dull the appetite, whereas brightly-coloured foods stimulate it. Not that anyone is likely to be dissuaded from eating a biscuit based on the colour of its icing!
Stay tuned for recipes for the other biscuits in this box. The boys at work ain't gonna know what hit them!