As the crowds began to get a little too much, we headed to Bath's fantastic shops. Before long we were in need of sustenance and stopped of at The Fine Cheese Company for an excellent lunch of Somerset rarebit and Tunisian orange cake. For my review of this place (along with other reviews I've written), do hop across to Trusted Places. Though do be sure to hop back again too!
I got back to London with overflowing bags of Christmas goodies. On Sunday morning up was up early(ish) and went to visit a friend who was exhibiting at the Young Designers Christmas Bazaar at Shepherds Bush. Then it was off to choose a Christmas tree.
I'm exceptionally picky about Christmas trees. Firstly, they have to be real. I don't care about the needles or that a fake one costs less when you consider how much you spend each year on a fresh tree. I'm sure it would be better for the environment if I didn't have a fresh tree each year. But for me, an artificial tree just isn't the same. It doesn't have that lovely Christmassy fragrance. There isn't the annual excitement of heading out in the cold to pick the perfect specimen.
And I'm very picky about the shape. I won't buy one that is already in its string bag. Oh no. I have to look at it carefully. Walk round it a few times. I have to fall a little bit in love with it in fact. Is that odd?
I found my little tree this year and took it home. I unravelled the lights. Discovered they still worked (a miracle?) and then started to decorate it. I'm picky here too. Red and silver only.
But this year, I felt it needed a little something extra. Inspired by Nigella's Christmas, I decided to bake and decorate some edible tree biscuits. What fun it was! The flat filled with a wonderfully spicy, festive aroma and I really enjoyed piping the decoration on the biscuits (...even if I am clumsy...).
I'm so pleased with how they look, dangling from their silver ribbons, that I thought I'd share them with you. Nigella's recipe makes around 40 biscuits, so I halved it (my tree is only wee). I also altered the spices slightly to suit what I had knocking around.
Spicy Christmas Tree Biscuits
Makes approx 20
150g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
50g soft butter
50g soft dark muscovado sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp runny honey
1. Pre-heat oven to 170C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
2. Whizz together flour and spices in a food processor. Add butter and sugar and whizz until you have fine breadcrumb consistency.
3. Beat together the egg with the honey. With the motor running, slowly add the egg mixture. Go carefully as you may not need to add it all - stop when a dough is just formed.
4. You could chill the mixture for 10 minutes or so. Alternatively, if you are impatient like me, you can get started straight away. Liberally dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough. Cut out your favourite festive shapes (I had snowflakes, starts, Christmas trees, hearts, gingerbread men and, that wonderfully festive of creatures, the butterfly). Work quite quickly and set the biscuits on the cookie sheet.
5. Using a skewer, cut a small hole just below the top of each biscuit so that you'll be able to tie ribbon through later for hanging on the tree. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the biscuits are no longer dough-ey in the middle.
6. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack and allow to cool. Mix up the royal icing according to the packed instructions. Spoon into a piping bag and decorate the biscuits once cool.
7. Be patient and leave the icing to set. Don't be like me and get all impatient and try to thread the ribbon through before the icing has set as it will smudge (of course). Once set, wait another ten minutes or so (just to be sure) and carefully thread pretty ribbon through the holes. You may need a cocktail stick to re-pierce the holes slightly. Whilst doing this be sure to 'accidentally-on-purpose' break a couple so that you have to eat them. Marvel at how they actually taste rather good!
8. Hang on the tree and admire. Invite everyone to ooh and ahh at your artistic talent!
I'm entering my edible tree decorations into the December edition of 'No Croutons Required', a monthly event hosted by the lovely Holler of Tinned Tomatoes. She is inviting people to submit a Christmassy picture - I hope that these will evoke the festive spirit for her!