Festive Chocolate Ginger Nut Cookies

These cheat’s festive cookies are cheap and easy, but look a million bucks! Choose your favourite decoration option, or make some of each.

Option 1: Mini Christmas Puddings
1 packet Arnott’s Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g dark chocolate, melted
20g white chocolate, melted
Original M&Ms (red & green)
Mini M&Ms (red)

Spread the melted dark chocolate onto your biscuits and let harden. Using a butter knife, spread the melted white chocolate onto the top of your cookies to look like custard. Top with M&Ms.

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Option 2: Glitzy Gold
1 packet Arnott’s Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g dark chocolate, melted
Gold cachous
Gold sugar crystals

Spread the melted dark chocolate onto your biscuits and top with gold cachous and sugar crystals.thumb_img_2750_1024

Option 3: Strawberry, Pistachio & Almond
1 packet Arnott’s Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g dark chocolate, melted
Slivered almonds
1 tablespoon pistachios, finely chopped
Dried strawberries, finely chopped

Spread the melted dark chocolate onto your biscuits and top with dried strawberries, almonds and pistachios.
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Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, Christmas 2015

Elsa’s Snowflake Cookies

These beautiful snowflake cookies look like something Elsa from Frozen would make, and are a fantastic way to get your kids involved in the kitchen. These are perfect for Christmas or for a Frozen themed Birthday party.

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Ingredients (makes around 40 cookies)
Equipment:
1 large snowflake cookie cutter
1 small snowflake cookie cutter

For the cookies:

½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 small egg
½ teaspoon water
1 ½ cups flour
¾ teaspoons baking powder

To decorate:
Blue hard lollies (we used Melbourne Rock Candy Bo Peep collection)
White chocolate, melted

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Method
Cream butter, sugar & vanilla using electric beaters until well combined. Add the egg and water and beat until light and fluffy.

Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, mix sifted dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a dough forms. Divide into 2 roughly equal pieces, cover with glad wrap (or plastic wrap) and refrigerate for an hour.

Line 3 large trays with baking paper.

Roll out dough using a rolling pin until it is approximately 1cm thick. Use the large snowflake cutter to cut out snowflakes from the dough, and carefully place on the lined trays (no need to leave room for spreading as they don’t). Then line up the smaller cutter in the centre of the large snowflake to cut out the dough – you can either bake these little snowflakes as cookies or put them back into the dough to cut out more large snowflakes.

Preheat oven to 190-200°C  (180°C fan-forced).

Blitz blue hard candy in a blender until they are fine crystals. Using a teaspoon, carefully sprinkle the crystals into the empty centres of the cookies ensuring that the centre is fully covered. Brush away any crystals not in the centre as these will discolour the cookies.

Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Leave to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes, before gently transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are cool, decorate by piping melted white chocolate onto the cookies.

Enjoy!

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Sugar cookie recipe adapted from ‘Alice & Lois.com’ – ‘The Best Valentine Sugar Cookies’

Design idea from Pinterest.

Apple Streusel Muffins

We’ve had an abundance of delicious apples this season and so I wanted a recipe to showcase them, preferably in an easily portable package so we can take them to uni and work for lunches this week. These muffins fitted the bill perfectly, and smelled absolutely divine while baking. I love the crispy streusel topping as a contrast to the soft apple and fine crumb of the muffins.

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Ingredients (makes 12-14)
Streusel Topping
⅓ cup self-raising flour
⅓ cup plain white flour
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
80g cold butter, chopped coarsely

40g butter
3 large apples, peeled, cut into 1cm pieces
2 cups self-raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅔ cup caster sugar
80g butter, melted, extra
¾ cup buttermilk
1 egg

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Method
Make streusel topping by processing flours, sugar and cinnamon. Add butter and process until combined. Roll dough into a ball, wrap in glad-wrap and freeze until required.

Melt butter in a large frying pan; cook apple, stirring about 5mins or until lightly browned. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring for an additional 5mins or until the mixture thickens.

Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with patty pans.

Sift flour, spices and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the combined, extra butter, buttermilk and egg. Do not overmix. Stir in half the apple mixture.

Divide mixture among patty pans. Top with remaining apple mixture. Coarsely grate streusel topping over muffin mixture. Bake ~20mins.

Stand muffins in tray for 5mins before turning out, top-side up, onto wire racks to cool. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Little Pies and Cakes’ cookbook.

Mini Quiches

These delicious quiches are perfect for picnics, high-teas or parties. Here I’ve provided the recipe for cheese & bacon mini quiches, which are probably the biggest crowd pleaser, but you can add anything you’d like to your quiches – I love spinach and semi-dried tomato as a vegetarian option.

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Ingredients (makes 36)
2 sheets puff pastry
5 rashers shortcut bacon, with fat removed
185g shredded cheese
3 eggs
½ cup thickened cream

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Method
Defrost pastry sheets at room temperature for approximately 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190°C fan-forced. Spray three 12-hole round-bottomed patty-pan/yorkshire pudding pans (see picture below) with cooking oil. Otherwise, muffin pans will work fine but you may need to adjust the size of your pastry rounds.

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Image Credit: Amazon.com

Dice bacon into 1cm squares. Cook until crispy (I tend to be lazy and use the microwave, but by all means cook in a frypan).

Once pastry has defrosted, cut out rounds with a 6cm cutter and press into prepared pans.

Divide bacon pieces evenly among quiche bases. Top with approximately 1 teaspoon of cheese per quiche.

Whisk together eggs and cream in a small bowl. Transfer into a small jug for easy pouring. Pour approximately half a tablespoon of egg mixture into each quiche base.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Let the quiches cool for 2 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire cooling racks.

Quiches can be served warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

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NB: Quiches keep for 1-2 days in an airtight container in the fridge, but are best eaten on the day they’re made so the pastry is crisp.

Recipe from my Mum, Anne Bills.

Powder Puffs with Strawberries and Cream

This is probably my most requested recipe and I feel terrible for having kept it in the Bills/Payne/James/Hockney family vault for so long! My Mum (and her mother and grandmother before her) makes powder puffs for special occasions and they are always incredibly popular. They’re dead easy to make and the “sponge biscuits” keep in an airtight container for ages**. The only trick is to fill them with cream far enough in advance so they soften up – then they’re like eating sweet, fluffy clouds. I love them filled with strawberries and cream, lightly dusted with icing sugar, but you could fill them with just about anything.

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Ingredients (makes approximately 45 sandwiched powder puffs)
3 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon bicarb soda

To fill
Whipped, sweetened cream flavoured with a drop or two of vanilla extract
Strawberries, thinly sliced

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Method
Preheat the oven to 200°C (or 180°C fan-forced). Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper (you will fill approximately 6 trays due to spreading, but I just rotate and re-use the trays).

Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixers until light and fluffy. Add in sifted flours, cream of tartar and bicarb soda and mix until just combined.

Drop ½ teaspoons’ worth of the mixture onto the prepared trays, leaving plenty of room to spread (I usually fit 12-15 on my large trays). Bake for 6 minutes* and then leave to cool slightly, before removing from the tray with a metal spatula and letting them cool completely on a wire cake rack. Repeat this process with the remaining mixture.

2-3 hours before serving, match each sponge biscuit with another of approximately equal size. Spread each ‘biscuit’ generously with thickened, sweetened cream and add sliced strawberries to one half before sandwiching them together.

Dust with a little icing sugar just before serving. Enjoy!

Notes:
*They will harden like a biscuit (they’re supposed to, don’t worry), but will soften when you add the cream later.
** Store in an airtight container with grease-proof paper between each layer so they don’t stickthumb_IMG_1897_1024.jpg

Adapted from a very old family recipe.

Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I love this cake, it’s so quick and effortless to put together and is absolutely delicious (also, because it contains carrot it’s basically a salad, right?!). It’s great at any time of year but is particularly good as a treat around Easter for someone who doesn’t like chocolate or for people who are chocolated out!

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Ingredients (serves 8-10)
1 ½ cups grated carrot (lightly packed)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¾ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
40g (1 tablespoon) softened butter
60g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted

To decorate (if desired):
Extra chopped walnuts
The thin end of a small carrot cut into 2 halves
4 sprigs of coriander

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Method
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).

Grease an 8″ round cake pan with margarine and line the base with baking paper.

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla & sifted dry ingredients  in a large bowl & beat on low speed.

Stir in carrots & walnuts. Mix well.

Pour mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for approx. 40 – 45mins or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, before placing it on a wire rack to cool completely.

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To make the cream cheese frosting, beat butter & cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add in the lemon rind and icing sugar and beat until smooth. Spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

If desired, decorate by placing the finely chopped walnuts around the edge of the cake and the carrot pieces in the centre of the cake with two coriander sprigs above each carrot. Enjoy!

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Recipe from Aunty Cynth

Vanilla Bean Macarons

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I made these particular macarons to sit on top of my 21st birthday cake (and because I think no afternoon tea is complete without them!) Feel free to adapt the colours or flavours as you wish.

Ingredients (makes around 40 macarons, 20 paired)
Macaron shells
225g pure icing sugar
130g almond meal
115g egg whites
60g caster sugar
1g bicarb soda
A few drops of rose pink & violet food colouring

Vanilla bean filling
100g butter, softened
¼ cup milk
½  tblspn organic vanilla bean paste
4 cups icing sugar
Rose pink & violet food colouring

Method
Preheat oven to 150°C fan forced. Grease and line two large baking trays with baking paper.

Separately sift icing sugar and almond meal into medium bowls or over sheets of baking paper. Repeat process 3 times and re-weigh ingredients (I know this seems excessive but trust me, it’s worth it). You will need to top up the ingredients as you may have lost some in the sifting process. Sift icing sugar and almond meal into a bowl and repeat, ensure there are no lumps.

Whisk egg whites until doubled in size using electric beaters or an electric stand mixer. While still whisking, gradually add caster sugar and bicarb, whisking until mixture forms very stiff peaks.

Gently fold almond meal mixture into meringue using a spatula until incorporated.

Divide mixture into 2 bowls. Add food colouring (pink to one, purple to the other) one drop at time, stirring very gently with a spatula, until desired colour reached.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 9mm round nozzle (approximately). Hold nozzle close to the baking tray and pipe 3cm diameter circles onto prepared trays – don’t make a circular motion àla soft serve. Tap the underside of the tray to allow macarons to settle and air bubbles to escape. If there is still a little peak on top, dip a teaspoon in water and use the back to smooth the surface. Repeat with other colour. 217929_10151403883896183_1104201680_n

Leave to rest for at least 20-30 minutes or until the macarons form a skin and the top is no longer shiny or sticky to the touch (this is VERY important as it will give your macaron its lovely ‘foot’).

Bake for 12 minutes. Remove trays from the oven and allow macarons to cool on the tray. They will still be soft at this stage but will firm up on cooling.

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To make the buttercream, cream the butter for 1-2 mins. Add the milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 mins (until the mixture is light and fluffy).

Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 mins or until of a spreadable consistency. Add extra milk if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet.

Halve the mixture and add a drop of rose food colouring to one half and a drop of violet colouring to the other.

Pipe a generous amount of buttercream onto half the macarons and sandwich with a second macaron.

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Recipe adapted from Callum Hann’s ginger macarons

Salted Caramel Blondies

These delicious blondies taste like a cross between choc chip cookies and cake. Be careful not to over cook them as they’re definitely best when fudgy.

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Ingredients (Makes about 25 blondies)
180g unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups plain flour
Sea salt flakes
½  cup white chocolate melts
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup milk chocolate chips (optional)

Method
Preheat the oven to 190°C (or 170 fan-forced). Line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.

Mix the melted butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla extract.

Gently stir in the flour and a pinch of sea salt. Carefully fold in the chocolate, making sure it is evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt over the top and then bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the outside is cooked and the middle has a slight wobble.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle once more with a pinch or two of salt, and allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tin. Gently remove the blondie from the tin by the baking paper and leave to cool for a further 5-10 minutes on a cooling rack.

Once cool, cut into squares. Enjoy!

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Adapted from Callum Hann’s ‘Salted Dirty Blondies’ in I’d Eat That, 2014.