Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Christmas Baking & Crafting

So my pre-christmas baking session stretched over a few days and various kitchens to create all the baked goods that I needed for the festive period.  I started with the Festive Gingerbread that I made last year to take with us on various family visits and decided that it needed to become a Christmas Tradition.  Hence my first job was to find some new Christmas cookie cutters - I decided on snowflakes - and spent an enjoyable hour or so looking through the different offerings of the Internet and the different reviews! I finally decided on a set of Tala Snowflake Cutters, they weren't as big as thought they would be, so couldn't cut out bits from middle, but they are really easy to use and the dough didn't get stuck in the cutters.  I used a new recipe for the gingerbread - finding one on Smitten Kitchen. It made lovey spicey gingerbread that was a bit more cakey than biscuity.  Although I'd recommend using a standing mixer, as I don't know how you'd make it otherwise, it would take a lot of elbow grease!

With trays and trays of baked cookies, I needed to ice them - I decided to look up a copies for royal icing - surprised to find that it was a bit more than just mixing water with icing sugar.  It was worth the extra ingredients and the icing looked really good, especially when decorated with millions of silver balls.  The final touches was to package them up in beautiful cellophane bags that I bought from this really fab baking website.

Next on the list were obligatory mince pies. I made some rather yummy frangipani topped ones last year, so wanted to find another interesting topping. I came across the idea for Pecan Crumble Crunch topping in Sainsburys, so decided to try it along with some orange pastry from the BBC GoodFood website.  They were easy to bake and I made sure I rolled the pastry thin to get a nice crunch and good ratio of pastry to mincemeat. The Pecan Crumble Topping was lovely and pecans have become a regular in my shopping basket!

I also made a couple of my Christmas presents this year - one was using my new found love of knitting and I made a couple of the cable knit owl mug cosies that were in issue 21 of Mollie Makes.  I made a tweak to the pattern so that I could have two owls on my cosy rather than just one! To add the eyes I used teddy bear eyes that were just pushed through with a washer back, rather than buttons.

My best friend enjoys painting, so I bought her some painting goodies for Christmas. To house the paintbrushes I made a fabric roll taking inspriation from the various crochet hook and knitting needle rolls I have seen (especially over at Sew Ray Me's blog!). I didn't add the flap at the top, as thought that would hinder the drying of the paint brushes.


Some final Christmas baking was some Christmas cupcakes.  I used a simple brown sugar cake mixture, which was scrummy! I decorated with circles of regal icing and various christmas sprinkles that I found on this website.   The mini christmas trees are a cone of regal icing dyed green and then carefully snipped to make the branches.  I wanted to present the cupcakes in a cake box and after failing to find ones I liked online - by chance I found these (for a great price too!) in Wilkinsons - will definitely be going back to get non festive boxes.

The last Christmas crafty item was made for me by my other half - taking inspriation from the huge towers of Belgium chocolates in M&S, he got a cone of oasis and wired on an entire box of my favourite Christmas chcoclates, Quality Street.  It was amazing - plus it also meant that we only consumed one box over the Christmas period as I didn't want to dissemble the masterpiece! I feel another Christmas tradition coming on with more elaborate oasis shapes being sought.

A special mention also has to go to my other half's very time consuming and elaborate wrapping, that took inspiration from the various Great British events of 2012 - it had a unique pull cord opening system (like a baby bel cheese!) through the middle red stripe of the flag. It truly was amazing to open - even so, not sure the few seconds to open warranted the 90 minutes it took to wrap!!

Hope you all had a crafty Christmas!