Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Christmas cookies:

Aside from painted rocks passed off as paperweights, I've never given a homemade present before.  It's not that I don't want to, it's just that a combination of being unskilled and unorganised means that I've never managed to make anything worth passing on.  If you suffer from the same problem, I've come up with a solution for us non-arty types: Christmas cookies.  As long as you can follow a recipe, you can bake some tasty biscuits and turn them into a heartfelt (and also extremely affordable) Christmas gift.

Source: here

For this experiment, I decided on two different recipes: Peanut Butter Surprise and Ultimate Ginger Cookies.  I might be biased, but both of them taste delicious!  It was a close call, but I think I prefer the ginger ones myself.  The Peanut Butter Surprise cookies are a favourite of YouTuber, Jennifer Ross (or Organized Jen online), and I've been looking for an excuse to try my hand at these for a while now.  I followed her straightforward recipe, which she has adapted from a Martha Stewart one, and helpfully pinned on her Pinterest page.  You can read it here, and you can also see Jen demonstrating the recipe on her YouTube channel here.

Source: here

The Ultimate Ginger Cookies came from a Google search, which isn't always the smartest way to choose a recipe you've never attempted before.  However, I was won over by a five star rating and the rave reviews from others who had already tried the cookies out.  The recipe (written by the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten) comes from the Food Network website, and you can view it here.

Possible pitfalls:
1. As both of these recipes are American, there's quite a lot of calculation involved in getting the quantities of ingredients right, if you are a Brit like me.

2. Some substitutes will be required if baking these cookies in the UK.  For example, I don't think 'creamy peanut butter' exists here, I just bought 'smooth' instead.  Use treacle in place of unsulfured molasses (sounds terrifying, doesn't it?), and plain flour for 'all-purpose' in both recipes.

3. My local Asda stocks bags of mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, required for the Peanut Butter Surprise recipe.  As you can see from my photo, the white chocolate cups burned a little in the oven.  If you want picture perfect cookies, I would recommend just using the milk chocolate ones.

4. In my non-expert opinion, the Ultimate Ginger Cookies don't need quite as much of the ground cloves or any crystallised ginger at all to taste amazing.  Quite a few of the recipe reviewers agreed.

5. The dough for the Peanut Butter cookies might be super sticky, but don't worry, it won't affect how they turn out.

6. I don't know if it's completely necessary for the cookies to be rolled in granulated sugar before baking - there's already a ton of sugar in the dough by the time you get to that stage!

7. Finally, if you'll excuse my poor English here, the Peanut Butter Surprise biscuits are extremely peanut buttery, and the ginger ones very gingery.  Know your demographic when you are giving these cookies, as both peanut butter and ginger flavours have a Marmite 'love it or hate it' effect on most people.

Once you've baked and cooled your cookies, you can simply pop some into a jar, tie some festive ribbon around it and hand it over to your loved one.  I used a plain KORKEN air tight jar from IKEA, which can be decorated as little or as much as you like.

If you'd prefer to give your cookies in bags, there are plenty of festive food bag options.  IKEA have done the perfect cute paper gift bags for the last couple of years.  I still have some left over from last Christmas, but this year's version are called SNÖMYS and are a similar design.

Don't get me wrong, baking a measly handful of cookies was much more of task than I thought, but it was still a satisfying task.  After spending the weekend elbowing my way through hoardes of people to do my Christmas shopping, slaving over a hot oven was actually extremely enjoyable!  You should give it a try.

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