Monday, November 30, 2009

Snowy drifts of sugar

So many of the traditional Christmas baking dishes that we favour seem wrong for our climate: hot roast dishes, rich puddings and dense spicy treats are perfect for a snowy, northern hemisphere Yuletide but seem inappropriate when we're more likely to be heading to the beach.

Yet the tradition persists. To me, the aroma of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves are the essence of Christmas and conjure up images of sweet treats that we can eat with a reckless abandon that doesn't exist during the rest of the year (or why else are the January magazines full of post-Christmas diets?)

It is a time of excess, particularly in relation to baking. A slice of panforte here, a wedge of fruit cake there, here a mince tart, there a spiced biscuit ... there's plenty of excuses to indulge.

Despite my mounting pile of recipes, it's nice to return to some old favourites. I adore spiced biscuits and cakes - put the word "spiced" into the title of a recipe and you have my attention immediately. These cute little spiced biscuits by Donna Hay, finished off with a dusting of snowy icing sugar, are a perfect way to offer season's greetings.

Sugar-dusted spice biscuits

125g (4 0z) butter, softened
3/4 cup (150g/5 oz) brown sugar
1/4 cup (95g/3 oz) golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 3/4 cups (235g/7 oz) plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup (55g/ 1 3/4 oz) hazelnut meal
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Beat butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until pale. Add the egg and beat well. Add the flour, hazelnut meal, spices and soda and beat until just combined.

Roll two teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on baking-paper-lined baking trays, allowing room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8 minutes, or until light golden. Cool, then dust with icing sugar.

Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine, issue 12

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