Take a Look at Me Now by Miranda Dickinson is not a Christmas novel. But when I read that Nell, the main character, was making stained glass biscuits, I had to include it in a Feasting column in the run up to Christmas as they would be perfect on the Christmas tree.
Nell Sullivan is in San Francisco for a few weeks living with her cousin. Her life back home has collapsed. She has lost her job and the on / off relationship with her boyfriend is now definitely off. So she uses her redundancy to do something completely out of character. She buys a ticket to San Francisco to stay with her cousin.
Nell is another character after my own heart. She loves to bake. Baking makes her happy. It gives her a buzz and makes her feel alive. But she hasn't been doing a lot of that lately. Instead, she has been in a job that didn't suit her, something she found herself in and stayed there, while her real dreams, which consist of opening her own foodie business, seem to be fading with time.
It isn't just the art of baking that makes Nell smile. It's the reaction of the people who see what she's made. The noises people make when they try it and find it truly delicious. It gives you joy. That joy, that satisfaction for the baker, you just can't buy it.
This is a simple biscuit recipe but can be pimped up with flavour if you so desire. I used ginger, just because it has a Christmassy taste. But I also like the idea of finely grating in orange zest, cinnamon, mixed spice, and cloves particularly if you want to hang them from the tree and scent the house.
125g butter, softened
50g caster sugar
185g plain flour, plus lots for rolling out
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp ginger (optional)
Boiled fruit sweets
Bowl, rolling pin, shape cutters (one large and one small), baking tray covered in paper
- Pre-heat oven to 160 fan or 180 regular.
- Cream the butter with the sugar.
- Add the flour and milk and mix.
- Bring together to make a smooth dough. If dough is too dry, add more milk. It it is too wet, add a little more flour.
- Roll out the dough on a well floured surface and use a well floured rolling pin.
- Cut out the large shapes, then lift onto a baking tray (something flat like a spatula would be useful here).
- Cut the smaller shape out of the middle once it is in position on the tray. This is where you will put the crushed sweet.
- You can also make a small hole at this stage at the top of the shape if you wish to put ribbon through to hang from the Christmas tree.
- Crush sweets whilst still in wrappers.
- Place some crushed sweet inside each shape.
- Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes. The sweet will melt inside the small cut out shape.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool (particularly the sweet bit).