Sunday, December 26, 2004

I made - Christmas hampers

This year for gifts to bf's mum, uncle and dad I made little Christmas hampers instead of buying gifts. It was an opportunity to try two festive recipes that had interested me for some time: Donna Hay's Gingerbread Shortbread and a christmas spice cake I had seen on the Domestic Goddess.

The shortbread recipe, to say the least, had me screaming and swearing in the kitchen, "Stupid Donna Hay!" I don't know what I did wrong but after rolling out the cookie dough in between the baking paper and cutting out the cookies, they were so limp that it was impossible to remove them onto the baking sheet. I thought I'd chill the dough to make it firmer and easier to work with, but to no avail. I ended up scraping the dough back into the bowl and adding another 3/4 cup of flour. Thankfully this produced a more pliable cookie dough. Perhaps any cookie cookers reading this can suggest what may have gone wrong - was it my technique, or the recipe (as I'm hoping)?

110 g butter
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup rice flour
2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 egg

A food processor bowl was loaded with the dry ingredients and butter then processed until a fine crumb obtained. Subsequently egg was added and the mixture worked into a soft dough that was rolled out to 0.5 mm thick between two sheets of baking paper. Cookie cutting was attempted but the dough was far too soft. Consequently, it was scraped back into the bowl and 3/4 cup flour added to form a firmer dough. Re-rolling to 0.5 mm followed by cookie cutting gave approximately 9 stars and 3 gingerbread men.

I iced the cookies with lemon icing made from icing sugar and lemon juice. The cookies looked quite cute and rustic. Tasted ok, but they were a little on the floury side.

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The spice cakes, on the other hand, were fantastic. I was a bit concerned at a cake recipe that did not use any egg yolks, butter or oil of any kind. But the substitution of butter with applesauce, a common technique in low fat baking I hear, was quite successful. I put some extra spices in, because I like 'em spicy, and the result were cute little bars of Blueberry Spice Cake.

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The texture of these cakes was different from a conventional full-fat cake but this was ok. It was slightly chewy and did tend to dry out quickly but the blueberries made sure that enough moistness was present. This was my first time using a silicone baking mould and I'm pleased to report that this was quite successful. Though next time I will put the very floppy mould on top of a baking tray before putting the batter in as it was a small acrobatic feat getting the fully laden and wobbling mould onto the chopping board, to slide it onto the baking tray, to put into the oven.

I individually wrapped them in cellophane with festive ribbons. What a task! Thankfully there were only 16 bars. The ribbon tying and curling nearly drove me insane - next time I will use gold twist ties instead.

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The hampers looked quite nice - little gingerbread men, stars, cake bars and chocolates all covered in shiny cellophane. Bf remarked on how beautifully spicy they smelled as I carried them down the apartment stairs.

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Anonymous said...

wow, those hampers look gorgeous! I'm no "cookie cooker", so can't offer any advice on why the shortbread recipe didn't work. But they still turned out looking great! I like the frosting; they're absolutely cute. I'm so envious. Any chance of me getting a hamper too?


David said...

Hi Julie,

Next time I make hampers you'll be first on the mailing list. Good to see you're back.

Ben said...

Great hampers - I'd have been thrilled to receive one of those! Did you bake the spice cakes in one of those mini-loaf trays I've noticed around? My nonchalant way of referring to them without admitting that I've bought one and have yet to make use of it :)Great blog too.

David said...

Thanks, and yes, I bought a silicone mini-loaf tray that did the job quite well. The recipe suggested that a loaf tin would be best for this kind of cake and I used mini-loaf tins as I needed them small to fit in the hampers.

amber said...

Hi Carpal Fish--Love your blog!

As for the shortbread catastrophe, I wasn't there, but here are some tips I have found useful :

1) after mixing the shortdough, ready a cookie or sheetpan w/ parchment. Flour & press your shortdough into the pan, flatten by hand, until even/smooth.

2) retard (chill) for 1-3 hours [or until firm]covered.

3) when ready to use, take out a third of the dough w/ bench scraper, flour your work space really well. Flour top of dough. Take rolling pin apply pressure into dough, rock back & forth. This will break up the dough enouph for use.

4) Once pliable - roll out to desired thickness, using the "rock & roll" method.

5) use cookie cutter, apply pressure firmly. Pull cutter away.

6) pull away scraps. Now using your bench scraper
slowly run at an angle around under the edges - with a gentle, rythem. When you have successfully run the scraper under the whole cookie - Capture half of the cookie on the scraper & half on your flattened hand. Pan.

I used this method, and even if working with a large batch -- over a longer period, the dough behaves.

Better Luck next time!

Excerpts From A Culinary Novice

David said...

Hi Amber,

Thanks for your hint, I will bear that in mind the next time I attempt cookies.

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