Tree biscuits by Jack Monroe
The last few Christmases had been all over the place for my little family, and 2013 was the first year I felt able to establish my own small traditions, which will hopefully carry on over the next few years. The first thing that sprang to my mind was making tree biscuits - although at the time I didn't have a tree to hang them on!
100g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
300g flour, plus a little extra for dusting
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon icing sugar to dust (optional)
First, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
Now the butter: because I make these with my son, I cube it and melt it in the microwave for 60 seconds to make it easier to stir in. Traditionally, you would rub it in to the flour with your fingertips, but once I started melting my butter in the microwave, I've never looked back. So, whichever method you choose, combine the butter with the flour to form a breadcrumb consistency.
Beat the eggs. Tip the sugar and cinnamon in to the flour mixture, then beat in the eggs to form a dough. Flour your work surface and hands, tip out the dough, and work it briefly to shape. Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll out.
Once firm, roll it out on a floured surface - I don't own a rolling pin, so I use a clean, empty bottle, floured to around 0.5cm thick for optimum biscuit thickness. Honest. Cut out, using a cookie-cutter or, if you're feeling radical, a blunt knife to make whatever shaped biscuits you like.
Re-roll the dough trimmings until all of it is used up. (Not one to promote brands too much, but I picked up most of my novelty cookie-cutters from Poundland and Ikea.) If you want to hang the biscuits on the tree, make a small hole, using a skewer or the tip of a sharp knife - the hole will need to be larger than you think, as it smooshes back together in the oven a little!
Lightly grease a baking sheet, and place your cookies on top, leaving a few millimetres around each one: they'll spread out and you don't want them to stick together.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 12 minutes, until just golden and crisp. Take them out, and allow to cool on the baking sheet. I dredge mine very lightly with icing sugar while warm, for an extra sweet kick. Thread string or ribbon through, and hang them on the tree... if you think they'll last that long!
Recipe extracted from 'A Year in 120 Recipes' by Jack Monroe (Michael Joseph, £18.99) .