We were thrilled that Ren Behan had agreed to join us for Christmas at Forty Hall Farm to show us how to make and ice Christmas biscuits like a pro! Then snow got in the way. A lot of it! So the event had to be called off (sob!) but Ren kindly agreed to share her recipe here for us all, taken from her wonderful book Wild Honey and Rye, published by Pavilion Books. - EL
Photos: Yuri Sugiura forPavilion Books
POLISH SPICED CHRISTMAS COOKIES - PIERNICZKI ŚWIĄTECZNE
These Christmas cookies very quickly became the most popular recipe on my website when I first posted them in November 2011, just a year into starting my food blog. Since then, I’ve loved receiving emails and photos of the cookies that friends and readers have made for their own trees, or to give as gifts ahead of Christmas. Instead of making the icing to decorate the cookies, you could buy writing icing. Since I use wild honey and rye (flour) in my cookies, the title of my book was hidden within this recipe – long before I knew it! Ren Behan
Makes about 24 cookies, depending on the size of cutters used
115g/4oz/½ cup unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
115g/4oz/generous ½ cup soft dark brown sugar
8 tbsp runny honey
450g/1lb/scant 4 cups plain (all-purpose) flour or rye flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp mixed spice
2 tbsp cocoa powder
150g/5½oz/generous 1¼ cups icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
1 egg white
1 tbsp water
food colouring (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Lightly grease three large baking sheets with butter.
Put the butter, brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir only until the butter has melted. Set to one side.
In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together, mix well, add the egg and mix again. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough starts to come together.
Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to form a ball. If the mixture is too crumbly, add a tablespoon of water at a time and knead again until it comes together. Roll out the dough to about 3mm/1⁄8in thick. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and carefully lift the cookies onto the baking sheets; leave about 1–2cm/¾in around each cookie – they don’t spread too much. Bake the cookies for 7–8 minutes per batch, until golden.
While the cookies are baking, make the icing by stirring together the icing sugar, egg white and water. If you like, divide the icing into different bowls and add a little food colouring to one or more bowls. Mix together really well until you have a thick paste that will pour evenly off a spoon. Fill a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle with the icing and set to one side.
When the cookies are baked, they will still be a bit soft. Using a palette knife, carefully lift them onto a wire rack and leave to cool. If you are decorating the cookies for the tree, use a chopstick to make a small hole in the top of each cookie as soon as they come out of the oven, but be careful not to break the top off the cookie by pressing too hard.
Once cooled, decorate your cookies with the icing. Store in a tin for up to 2 weeks, as they will soften. If used as Christmas tree decorations, they can be left on the tree for the season.