Many of us are preparing to get our trees and tinsel out this weekend, but rather than rushing to the shops to buy a fresh batch of baubles, why not cook some up instead?
From meringue wreaths to stained glass window tree decorations, Juliet Sear is in the kitchen with a selection of delicious decorations.
Serves: makes 16
4 medium free range egg whites at room temperature
200g white caster sugar
Food colouring (optional)
Preheat oven to 120C / Gas mark 1 and get a few baking trays ready lined with paper and with the circle guides drawn on. (You can draw round a 10cm circle cutter)
Whisk the egg whites in a clean, grease-free bowl into completely stiff peaks
Gradually add in the caster sugar, whisking until fully incorporated in between each addition. Add food colouring if desired.
Fill a plastic piping bag with the mixture, and a small open star nozzle of your choice
To fix the bakers twine into the meringue, pipe little dots on the circle templates, and press in a loop of bakers twine, so this will pop out of the top of the wreath, then pipe over the whole circle in little rosettes to form a wreath
Bake at 120C for 30 mins, then reduce temperature to 100C until completely dry and crisp. Once cooked, turn off the heat and leave to cool and dry completely in the oven.
Use a palette knife to carefully remove the meringues from the baking paper, and decorate as desired
Top tip: You can tint the meringue itself, OR paint the inside of a piping bag to get a red and white stripe effect
Stained glass window biscuits
200g light muscovado sugar
200g soft butter
2 tsp vanilla paste
1 medium egg
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
375g plain flour
1 x pack boiled sweets, broken up into small pieces
250g soft peak white royal icing (in a piping bag snipped with scissors, or a number 3 small round nozzle for neater results)
You’ll also need straws for making holes and twine or ribbon for hanging
Preheat oven to 180C / Gas mark 4, and line some baking sheets with parchment
In a mixer, mix the sugar, butter and vanilla together until combined. Next, add the egg and mix together well.
In a large bowl, whisk through the spices with the plain flour. Add all this to the mixer and mix on a slow speed until a dough is formed.
Roll out to guide stick thickness (bit thicker than a pound coin) and stamp out your large shapes - place on the trays with a little space in between
Using smaller cutters, stamp out the middles, then fill with broken boiled sweets of any colours you like (I crushed the sweets in a clean tea towel with a rolling pin).
Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, remove and use a straw to make holes in the tops of the hangers, as near to the inside as you can while avoiding the melted sweets
Bake for a further 5 minutes until the cookies are golden and firm. Leave to cool on the trays.
Peel off when cool, and add little frames of piped royal icing detail. Pipe round the outer edges, the sugar windows and add little dots for a traditional christmas decoration effect.
Tie the ribbon on and they’re ready to hang on your tree!
Top tip: This recipe can be used to make any shape or size ornaments, all you need to make sure of is that you have smaller cutters to go inside the main larger ones. I’ve done Christmas trees, hearts, circles and stars.
Cutter sizes for each:
Large circle 8cm
Small circle 5cm
Large heart about 9.5 cm top to toe
Small heart 5cm (or a little smaller is also good)
Large star 10cm
Small star 4.5cm
Large Christmas tree 10cm top to bottom
Small Christmas tree 4cm top to bottom
Doggy treat candy canes
Serves: Will make approx 25-30 small candy canes
275ml chicken stock
2 medium eggs (one for the mix, one for the egg wash)
100g finely grated cheddar cheese
450g oat flour
Red and green natural food colourings (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas mark 4, line a baking tray/s with parchment paper
Make the stock and leave to cool, then beat in one egg. Place liquid in a mixer or large bowl if doing by hand with a wooden spoon.
In a large bowl, mix the cheddar with the oat flour, then dump into a mixer and mix on a slow speed until a dough is formed, or mix with a spoon and elbow grease if you don’t have a mixer. You may need a pinch or so more flour - you want it to be a rollable consistency and not too sticky.
If colouring, divide dough in half and colour one half red, and the other half green
To create little candy canes: Pinch around 20g of each colour and roll each into sausages and lay side by side. Next, pinch one end together and twist to create a spiral, then roll between your palms to seal and flatten together. Trim at one end and bend over to create the cane, trim off the bottom if you want to make it neat.
Place on a baking parchment lined tray and brush over with beaten egg
Bake for about 15 minutes (until a little golden, firm to touch and dried out. You will need a little longer for larger canes)
Leave to cool on the trays
Top tips: You can make any size candy cane to suit the size of your dog. You can roll the mixture out and cut shapes too. PME make 100% natural food colourings.