This year I banned commercial Christmas presents from the house. Why? Well for one I'm a miserable little humbug. Secondly, so I can stand and laugh at the frenzied general public, running around town going snooker loopy in the shops while I skip around gathering frivolous little luxuries for my annual festive baking. Zero stress.
However, the only gifting tradition that I was going to stick to this year was my edible gifts, far more personal and thoughtful than anything offered on the 3 for 2 gift stands.
Last year I made decorative iced ginger cookies, but this year I opted for some biscotti for dunking in hot chocolate, coffee, vin santo or even a little sherry. In keeping with the season, these were dazzled up with some colourful dried cherries, cranberries and pistachios as well as citrus and spices.
Some bespoke labels designed by moi and ribbons from the local market made these an ideal treat for friends and colleagues. I picked up the cello bags from a craft shop.
Makes around 60 biscuits which keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.
600g plain flour
450g caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
grated zest of 2 oranges
grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of half an orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 of a nutmeg, freshly grated
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
120g dried cranberries
75g dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
Line 2 very large trays with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices, salt, citrus zests, orange juice and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the beaten egg mix and work together to form a sticky dough. Mix in the nuts and dried fruit. This mixture is too soft to handle so I carefully spoon out the mixture into 2 rows on each baking sheet. The mixture will spread so allow enough room between the rows and sides of the tray. Try and get a rectangular-ish shape, with the ends not too thin and the sides neat.
Bake at 180ºC/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and set. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 15 minutes then place on a chopping board and gently cut with a serrated knife into 2cm slices to get roughly 60 biscuits.
Put the slices back on to a baking tray and dry out in the oven at 130ºC/Gas Mark ½ for about 20 minutes, turning half way through. Cool and store in an airtight container. The biscuits will keep for a couple of weeks.