It’s that time of year again. It's Christmas! The irresistible smell of gingerbread cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, shopping for presents, gift wrapping and all things Christmassy. The streets in London are brightly lit with Christmas lights, German style outdoor markets have sprung up around the city, and Scandi themed pop-up restaurants are all the rage. Freezing days that chill you to the bone par well with sitting by the fireplace, sipping an spiced mulled wine or hot chocolate. I love wrapping up in my winter clothes and after 3 years of living in London, I feel like I have acclimatised to the cold weather. Normally at this time of the year, I would be complaining about the cold (a lot) and how much I hate the cold. But not this year. I’m embracing the cold. Although give me a choice and I would still choose a hot climate over cold climate any day.
I really do love this time of year, especially since I moved to London. Christmas is a much bigger deal here than Sydney and it is all to do with the weather. Christmas and Santa are not the same without cold, frosty weather and a possible sprinkling of snow. It’s hard to imagine Santa sitting on the beach in his swimming trunks, not in December anyway.
As a child, I studied the traditional Christmas cards with images of children on sleigh in the snow, and imagined what it was like to experience a cold, snowy Christmas, one where I could build my own snowman. Growing up, my family didn’t celebrate Christmas the way you or I know it. We’re Vietnamese Buddhists and our biggest celebration of the year was Lunar New Year, not Christmas. Memories of my childhood Christmases are filled with hot and humid days, eating ice-cream and lying on the kitchen tiles to cool ourselves down. Without a doubt, Christmas in this part of the world is much more magical. My mum however made some effort and would put up a plastic tree she bought from K-mart with all the twinkling decorations and wrapped presents to place under the tree to complete the look. That was her tradition and that's the beauty about Christmas. We all have our own traditions and customs, ones that are steeped in our cultures, accumulated over thousands of year, merged, built upon and adapted to create something that is unique to ourselves. One tradition I have started for myself is to bake more edible gifts at Christmas and create more DIY projects.
This year I'm making mini herb wreaths to decorate the table and I’m baking these orange spiced gingerbread cookies. I’ll be wrapping some up and giving them away as presents and eating the rest. The challenge is to not to eat them all one sitting. It took me a while to get the hang of the icing, which isn't perfect but I like that they look home-made and rustic.
Before I head off to Ireland to spend Christmas with my husband's family, I'd like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas filled with lots of warmth, laughter, love and lots of delicious food and drinks.
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (softened)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup mild molasses
1 large egg
Zest of 1 orange
In a bowl mix the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for approx. 3 mins or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue mix until combined, then add the molasses and orange zest until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients slowly, continue to mix until well combined. You should have a stiff and sticky dough to work with. Roll the dough and flatten it to about 3cm thickness, which will make it easier to work with when ready to roll and cut. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/Gas Mark 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Flour your work surface and roll the dough to about 1/2 cm thick and cut your preferred shapes. Work quickly, as the dough will soften and lose it's shape. Bake in the oven for 10-12 mins until lightly browned. Halfway through, swap the baking trays in the oven. The cookies should still be soft to the touch but will harden as they cool.
Let the cookies cool completely before icing or dusting with a sprinkling of icing sugar.
1 cups icing sugar
1 tsp powdered egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Mix the icing sugar, powdered egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed with a tsp of water to begin with.
Increase the speed to medium and add a little bit more water as needed.
Continue to mix for about 3-5 mins until the icing is thick, glossy and smooth.
It should have a thick consistency but not too thick. The peaks should fall back on itself and should not be stiff.
I’m loving all the Christmassy online inspiration at the moment. I’m also getting over excited with the pinning on Pinterest and have gone so far as created a "festive" themed board. There are so many great recipes and DIY crafts to try. If only there were more days to give them all a try.
Here are some of my favourites I'd like to share:
Aimee’s mouth-watering desserts and her Christmas spice marshmallows are no exception.
Decorating ideas for edible Christmas tree decorations.
A Christmas mille feuille all the way from New Zealand.
This warming chestnut soup and pine and pear winter salad by Meg. Her table setting is enviable and get inspired to make your own wreath.
It may seem too cold for ice-cream but not when you see this French silk pie ice-cream creation.
Christmas present ideas from Dram Apothecary.
A Nordic inspired bake of saffron knots with orange and almond filling.
Molly’s gingerbread terrariums are a brilliant decorating idea.
If you’re stuck for a brunch idea during the holidays try Stephanie’s gingerbread cardamom waffles.