Homemade Foodie Christmas Gifts

Yesterday I was baking again.  This year my partner and I decided that, in addition to bought presents, we would make some homemade foodie gifts to give to people.  After some discussion we decided on Florentines and sugar cookies.  Both these recipes were new to me, but didn’t look to dificult and I was eager to give them a go.

I began by making the Florentines.  For these I had decided to use a slightly adapted version of a Delia recipe.  I began by melting together 1oz of butter, 3oz caster sugar and ½oz plain flour.  Seeing the word “melt” I was expecting a liquid, but this turned out to be an unfortunate assumption.  After about 5 minutes of patiently waiting for the contents of my pan to liquidise I ended up with a separated mixture of butter and toffee.  This went in the food bin where it turned rock solid once cooled!  My next attempt fared much better.

The burnt mixture

And the correct one

This time I only waited until the butter had melted, creating a smooth paste, before adding the required 2½floz of double cream.   I was left with a silky golden liquid

The smooth golden liquid

To this I added 2oz of sliced almonds, 2 oz chopped hazelnuts, some chopped apricots from the cupboard that needed using and enough candied peel to make the fruit content 4oz.

Adding the fruit and nuts

Next I spooned dessertspoon sized balls onto baking sheets that had been buttered and floured.  The balls were fairly well spaced to allow room for the Florentines to expand.

The biscuits ready to go in the oven

The trays went in the oven (190C) for about 12 minutes until the Florentines were quite dark.  On removing the trays from the oven I let the Florentines cool slightly before transferring them to an upturned cupcake tray (I don’t have a wire rack!) to cool fully and harden.   A little while later I melted some chocolate to finish the Florentines.  Not feeling too confident about my ability to dip the biscuits in the chocolate without dropping them I opted for some artful dribbles rather than the more traditional full chocolate coating on one side.

The finished Florentines

First attempt at melting aside, I was pretty pleased with how these turned out.  They were straightforward to make, looked impressive and tasted great.  I managed to get 22 Florentines from the mixture.  The peel gave them a lovely citrus tang.  My only slight issue was the dried chopped apricots I had added, although these tasted okay they went black in the oven which didn’t look to appealing.  Next time I make these I’ll just stick to the candied peel.

I then moved onto the sugar cookies.  The recipe I used was from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and said it would make about 20 cookies.  I started by creaming together 200g of unsalted butter, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract and 280g of caster sugar before beating in an egg.

The creamed butter and sugar

To this I the added 400g of plain flour and ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar to form the dough.  At this point it became apparent that 20 cookies may have been a bit of an underestimate.  There was so much dough that I split it in two in order to roll it out.

Half the dough ready to be rolled out

I rolled the dough to a thickness of about 5mm an, with my partner, began cutting out star shaped cookies.  The cookies went onto butter baking trays and into the oven at 170C.  They took about 10 minutes to cook and were ready when the edges started to brown.

Ready to go in oven

When cooked and cooled slightly, like the Florentines before them these would also be transferred to the upturned cupcake tray to harden.  The baking tray would then receive more cookies ready for cooking.  A long time later I finally used up all the dough to find that we had produced around 60 cookies.  I have no idea how large the hummingbird cookies are, but they must have been giants compared to mine to only get 20 from this mix!

My pile of sugar cookies

With so many cookies and the evening wearing on I decided to only ice around half of them.  The icing suggested in the book is a royal icing made with egg whites, but as one of our intended recipients is pregnant I decided to play it safe and made a simple icing from icing sugar, lemon juice and water.

The iced sugar cookies

With everything finally finished I placed a selection of Florentines, iced and un-iced sugar cookies into boxes and tied the lids tightly on.  I had a great time making these biscuits and I hope that they all make it safely to our friends and family.  I now have to find something to do with all my spare sugar cookies, I think I may be nibbling on them for a while!

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