Because I like cooking (and eating) and think there are plenty of good recipes around at this time of year that I’m happy for the kids to be involved with (unlike, say, a roast; made up mostly of raw meat, knives, and boiling oil) I find it’s a great time to get them away from their ‘books’ and ‘toys’ and into the kitchen to make my friends some gifts.
Two favourites for this time of year, both pretty foolproof and delicious, are Dan Lepard’s Stollen Bars, and these Dutch biscuits (hunted down because I wanted something I could stick mixed peel in).
A few points:
1. I didn’t have any ground cardamom - I have the pods, but we’ve lost the mortar and pestle (or given it to the charity shop in one of our frenzied clearouts). So for both recipes I did without, although I’m a bit sorry with the Stollen bars. It really adds something there.
2. I’d add a tiny dash more glycerine to the Stollen bars - might try with 2tsp? Maybe not. But the serving suggestions are BONKERS: for this to serve 6 to 8, you’d be looking at portions the size of sandwiches. I cut them into double-bite size (still huge) which gives around 25 portions. Much better.
3. Particularly with the biscuits, I tend to lob in whatever spices I have in my cupboard. If I’m short on ground cardamom and ground cloves, I’ll just smell around and go for cinnamon, ginger, allspice, mixed spice and/or nutmeg. Yom.
As I say, these are really easy recipes, both for nervous bakers and for children to do too. It’s in no way compulsory to weigh out the ingredients for the more complicated of these recipes (the Stollen bars) but it does help to quell any pathetic urges to pretend to be doing a cookery programme on TV.
Anyway, go, cook. Enjoy.