Gingerbread Biscuit Christmas Tree Decorations

As part of my Christmas baking plans I thought I would make some gingerbread tree decorations.

I love gingerbread; it is one of my favourite biscuits. The only problem with that is I find it hard to only eat one at a time. I usually discover I have eaten three in a row without realising it!

I have tried various gingerbread recipes over the years but this is by far my favourite.

Recipe

400g Plain Flour

1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

2tsp Ground Ginger

2tsp Cinnamon

1tsp Ground Nutmeg

½tsp Allspice

180g Salted Butter (softened)

125g Light Brown Sugar

125g Treacle

1 egg

Method

  1. Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and all spices into a bowl. I don’t sift this but you can.
  2. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together. I use a paddle attachment on the freestanding mixer. You could also use a handheld whisk.
  3. Once light and fluffy add the egg and treacle*. Scrape down the sides to ensure a through mix
  4. Add the flour mixture slowly on a slow speed (unless you fancy doing a ghost impression for the post man who invariably turns up at this point wanting a signature!). Ensure you scrape down the sides.
  5. Once a dough has been formed take it out of the mixture and wrap it in clingfilm. Place this in the fridge for 4-6 hours to fully rest. If you want to rest it for less time split the mixture into ¾ portions. Once it is hard it is ready for rolling.
  6. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  7. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. I use baking spray to secure this to the tray but I don’t spray the top of the paper where the biscuits will be.
  8. On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/2cm thick.
  9. Cut into desired shapes. I used round, holly leaves and snowflakes for this bake.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Leave the biscuits to cool for a few minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

*I have never worked out the best way to measure this out. However, what I do is place the treacle pot on my scales (digital will be easiest to do this with). I then ‘tare’ the amount so it shows as zero. I slowly spoon out the treacle bit by bit until the amount shows ‘-125g’. I don’t know if this is right but it seemed logical to me and it seems to work.

This makes a really dark gingerbread, which I personally prefer but I know lots of people prefer a lighter gingerbread. In this instance I would simply replace the treacle with golden syrup. The amounts required are roughly the same.

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To decorate I have used Royal Icing. You could also use Candy Melts if you preferred and they would work just as well.

Royal Icing

660g Icing Sugar, sifted

20g Pasturised Egg White Powder (or 4 egg whites)

½tsp Cream of Tartar

Method

  1. Prepare the egg white powder as per instructions. Usually this is mix with 50mls of water per 10g. But please double check.
  2. Mix in the powder until no lumps left and there is a think layer of bubbles.
  3. Put in the mixer with the cream of tartar and start whisking.
  4. If using egg white place these in the mixer and whisk until frothy with the cream of tartar.
  5. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, ensuring it is well combined after each addition.
  6. Mix on a medium speed for 15-20 minutes until bright white and stiff with a smooth texture.

For these decorations I used the royal icing in stiff and flood consistency. I don’t line the shapes before flooding. I simply use a scribing tool to bring the icing slightly closer to the edge if I need in small circular movements. This also removes any air bubbles that you do not want! To combine the water I use a spray to ensure I don’t add too much at once. For the stiff consistency I was looking for a toothpaste type mixture. For the flood consistency much more water is required. This is also referred to as 20 second consistency because when all the water is mixed in if you draw a line through the mixture (and into it) with a knife or skewer this line should disappear without a trace at 20 seconds. Not before or after.

If you add too much water then the best and only way to effectively thicken the icing again is to add more of the stiff royal icing. Simply adding icing sugar will make it grainy.

Once the biscuits are iced I leave them out over night to set or for at least four hours.

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For the colours I used:

Red: Squires Kitchen in ‘Poppy’

Green: Sugarflair in ‘Holly’

I also tinted some white icing with Squires Kitchen Teddy Brown, which I then painted with edible gold lustre.

To make the lustre into a paintable liquid add some alcohol to the dust. The reason you use alcohol is alcohol evaporates really quickly so it doesn’t dissolve the icing like water would. I like to use vodka because it is flavour and colourless so it doesn’t alter anything.

I added some silver ball dragees to the snowflakes and so silver lustre dust to make them a little sparkly.

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Oh and because I totally forgot to say I made the holes for the ribbon in the snowflakes and baubles using a straw from one of the girls sippy cups when I cut out the dough! I think any large straw would work. The holes did close up a little during baking which I expected but they were still large enough for a thin ribbon to fit through.

The final product: Ta Dah! (Ok, I know I’ve already put picture above but just pretend this is a grand reveal for me… Please.)

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bakerdays Review & Giveaway

When I was contacted by the bakerdays team to review one of their letterbox cakes how could I say no? Cake is what I do; it is what I live for (ok a bit dramatic but I think you are all getting to understand my baking obsession).

bakerdays

A little introduction directly from them:

*bakerdays is a Personalised Celebration Cake Specialist, providing quality personalised cakes for all occasions. The delicious range of recipes and sizes are available for delivery 6 days a week, and if you order before 2pm, bakerdays can deliver the very next day!

In essence they can provide a cake for 3 people up to 55 people. The smallest size (5 inch) is the one that fit through your letterbox. This is very true! It fitted through ours with no problem.   Each cake can be delivered the next day if you are in a rush (forgot until it was too late to do anything about it). All delivery details are listed on their website. The volume of choice is extensive. There are Princess cakes, Pirate cakes, Anniversary cakes and Apology cakes. There are even emoji cakes! Anyone who follows me on social media will know I am a huge fan of an emoji! (Who isn’t right?) Plus so many more! Most of them are personalisable (spell checker says that isn’t a word… I’m using it anyway), and some even allow you to upload one of your photos onto it.

Our Cake

We chose a Christmas design (I consulted Hubby but then ignored his suggestions) because I am feeling very festive and no matter how hard I try to write about other things I seem to be filling the blog with festivities! Once I had chosen the design and added our name, I checked the preview and ordered the cake. It is a very simple process.

Ours arrived at the most fortuitous moment! After a 5am wake up call (thanks Pinky!) all I wanted was cake, but since I needed match sticks to keep my eyes open the last thing I wanted to do was make any. Cue cake hitting the mat making me one super happy Mama.

Our cake is vanilla but there are also the options of chocolate, gluten, wheat and dairy free. They even do cupcakes! This might be my new favourite thing!

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It arrived in a well-sealed, sturdy cardboard box, which despite having been dropped through our letterbox onto a very hard floor doesn’t have a dent in it! Inside the box is a tin and a little cracker for Christmas. Inside the tin is our cake… TaDah!

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Isn’t it pretty?! Please pay note to their instructions…. No need me to devour the cake with great gusto, I usually inhale the stuff 😉

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Taste

Well it tasted delicious! It wasn’t too sweet which meant I probably would have eaten it all to myself but it was more than enough for the four of us.  And it didn’t last long at all!

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Find them

You can find bakerdays on Twitter and Facebook. Their website is extremely easy to use and navigate.  The hardest part is choosing which design you would like.  With so many possibilities to choose from it is very hard to decide.

Giveaway

bakerdays are giving away one letterbox cake to a lucky winner.  The cake will be provided directly from bakerdays.  You can choose your own design.  Competition is open from 7am 12/12/16 to 11.59pm 29/12/16.  The winner will be picked at random notified on 30/12/16. Click below to enter.

Winnettes bakerdays giveaway

* Disclaimer: I was provided with a cake for free in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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5 Stages of Decorating the Christmas Tree

Each year we get a real tree for Christmas. I love it, the smell, the ‘full’ look and the fact that I don’t have to spend 30-40 minutes separating the fake branches. It does mean we wait a little later into December to get it so that the tree hasn’t lost all of its needles by Christmas day. When it comes to decorating it we usually wait for the girls to go to bed and then it is left up to me. Any by ‘left up to me’ I mean hubby helps unravel the lights and then stays out of may way because I can get a little crazy. I go full on ‘Monica Gellar’ with the decorating, everything has to be perfect. If money were no object I would hire a professional to come in and decorate it for me, but since I don’t live in Mayfair I shall crack on and do the thing myself! This year, however, much to my dismay Pinky is going to have to be included in the decorating process, she is so excited I don’t have the heart to exclude her, and besides, what harm could it do? Well only time will really tell but I’m hoping because I am expecting it I will be mentally prepared to deal with the inevitable emotional trauma my OCD is about to endure! In an attempt to ‘cope’ I have broken down the whole day into sections so I can take each one at a time.

Stage 1: Pick the Tree

  • Remember we don’t live in a mansion and put back the 9ft tree.
  • Accept that 6ft will probably still need trimming down, perhaps 5ft would be better?
  • Get the 6ft tree anyway which causes Hubby to become disgruntled; he knows he will be trimming it down.
  • Pay the staff and try and avoid the girls seeing all the sparkly decorations on sale, we have enough already!
  • Try and get the tree in the car, one day we will remember to put the seats down in advance.

Stage 2: Putting the Tree Up

  • Find the stand.
  • Hope that all the feet and bolts are intact from last year (there is always one missing!)
  • Start to unwrap the tree.
  • STOP!!! The tree is easier to put up if it is still wrapped.
  • Get hubby to hold the tree up so I can judge if it is straight or not.
  • Start tightening up the bolts.
  • Remember checking if it was straight was irrelevant because now the bolts have moved the whole damn thing anyway!
  • Readjust gently so it is actually straight.
  • Allow the blood flow to return to your arms and hands for a moment.

Stage 3: The Lights

  • Get the lights out of their box.
  • Allow Hubby to exclaim loudly that we both ensured last year they were ‘put away in a nice tidy manner so how on earth are they in such a f****ng tangled mess now?’
  • Assure him there is no such thing as a Christmas Light Imp that lives in the loft whos sole purpose is tangling the lights to upset p@*s him off.
  • Plug the lights in *fingers crossed.
  • Bugger! How do they not work!
  • Off to local supermarket for cheapest set we can find (this might be why they don’t work after a year).
  • Rush home to take lights out of the box. How do they pack them in so nicely? Take note of packing knowing full well I will never be able to recreate it… But I will try!
  • Plug in lights.
  • YES! They work, thank f@*k goodness for that.
  • Start putting lights onto the tree. Bottom to top/top to bottom, which is best?
  • Spend the next half an hour trying to make the lights look evenly spread and not all clumped at the bottom. Why are there so many there?

Stage 4: The Decorations

  • Get the biggest box of decorations known to man down from the loft (what in the name of Christmas is in here anyway?)
  • Forget it is nowhere near as heavy as it looks and nearly launch it through the roof as I pick it up.
  • Look inside and mourn the day I had to throw out my expensive glass ornaments once the children came along.
  • Quickly get over myself when I remember how much it annoys Hubby that I put a Tinkerbell fairy on top of the tree and chuckle cackle loudly.
  • Try and gently persuade a three year old that you can’t put all of the baubles on one
  • Nor can you put all of the gold ones together.
  • Or all of the red ones together.
  • No, Santa cannot sit on the reindeer decoration.
  • No, Mummy isn’t cross.
  • Yes, Mummy does like wine.
  • Fine! Put Tinkerbell on the tree!
  • Oh look at how late it is…. Time for bed!
  • Strip the tree of all decorations.
  • Pour second, ok, third glass of wine.
  • Start again.

Stage 5: The Finished Product

  • Look at how pretty it is.
  • Reward myself with a large Gin.

Thank you Hubby for staying out of the way, I think it saves our marriage every year 😉

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Christmas Brownies

This post features on Bad Mum Magazine if you would like to check it out there and other fabulous articles highlighting the highs and lows of Motherhood.  We’re all in this together and our best is all we can do.

Who doesn’t love brownies? Ok, potentially a lot of people but we are not some of them! These are a firm favourite in our family and it has been a long time since I have made any. How could I resist a Christmas theme at this time of year?

I am a self confessed perfectionist when it comes to baking. Most things I make are designed to look perfect, they require precision and often a steady hand. The end result isn’t always what I had in mind and I am my harshest critic. I want to teach my girls how to bake and decorate but I struggle to give up some of the control. Brownies are perfect to do this with, they are not meant to look perfect. They should be rough around the edges and homely.

The recipe I have used for years is one from Humming Bird Bakery. It is gooey and because it uses real chocolate it has a very intense flavour. Ordinarily I don’t fiddle around with it but this time I added the zest of three oranges for a Christmas flavour twist to it. (I wanted to make it with a gingerbread flavour but Hubby told me I was insane and that would be disgusting…. I think it would taste nice. No?)

To ensure a smooth baking experience, prepare everything in advance. Measure out all of the ingredients into bowls and have any equipment and utensils to hand. Things can get forgotten or burnt/over mixed if you aren’t prepared.

‘By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’ Benjamin Franklin.

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To line a square tin this is how I cut the greaseproof paper, then I use a fry spray to stick it to the tin.

I melted the chocolate myself, as I didn’t want Pinky to get a steam burn. When melting chocolate ensure that the heatproof bowl you use fits snuggly in the saucepan without touching the bottom. If the bowl touches the bottom of the pan or the water you put in it the chocolate will burn and taste extremely bitter (not in a good chocolate way). If you get water in the chocolate it will split and go grainy. Yuk!

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Before adding the other ingredients I added the orange zest to the melted chocolate to ensure it mixed in well and didn’t clump. You could also use an orange essence but I haven’t found one I like yet. If anyone knows of a good essence brand let me know!

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Look at the serious face!

I use two square brownie tins when I am making these. This is bigger than the recipe recommends so mine come out thinner than intended but I like them this way. Because it is such a rich flavour it can get a bit sickly. I have always cut them up into small pieces but now I spread the mixture more the portion size can be cut bigger.

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I cooked these for 40 minutes at 180oC. The recipe says they should be done after 35 minutes. I learnt a long time ago (due to mistakes) that every oven runs at a different temperature. I have made these in 30 minutes before and I have also used an oven that meant they took over an hour to bake! The best way to check is get an oven thermometer. I don’t actually have one but I now know my oven well enough to know where the heat spots are and how accurate the temperature actually is. Use your instincts basically.   Baking can be all about trial and error.

Once these are done and cooled completely I cut them up into triangles. I had every intention of trying to make them all the same size… That didn’t happen (give it up love it doesn’t matter).

I decided to use some Candy Melts I had in the cupboard to decorate. These can be melted using the same method for chocolate or in the microwave. Once melted put in a piping bag (carful this is warm!) and pipe however you like. You could dip the brownie straight in if you wanted*. Then I added some smarties and sprinkles to finish the look (thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration).

*The candy melts are quite thick once melted which is ideal for piping rough details. Add a little vegetable fat to thin the mixture out if you are dipping (I would anyway). Be careful not to add too much fat, but if you do, add more candy melts to thicken it up a little again. Little by little is the key. Candy Melts can also be reused, if you have some left at the end leave to cool, it will harden at room temperature, then place in a sealed plastic bag until you want to use them again.

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I gave Pinky some triangles to decorate and she had so much fun. I use a cable tie at the top of the piping bag, which stops any mix coming out of the top. I find this useful myself but it even more effective for a three year old who doesn’t really have the two hand piping coordination. I put the smarties and sprinkles into bowls for her because, as I suspected, things got a little messy and no one would want to re use they ones she didn’t need!

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Spot the cable tie

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The final result….

TaDah!

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Perky trying to steal her sisters creations! Didn’t Pinky do a lovely job?
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What I want my Daughters to know

As days pass by and I see my daughters develop into their own independent little ladies, I often wonder what sort of women they will become. This isn’t something I particularly worry about. Perhaps I should. I don’t mind what jobs they have, I don’t mind if they go to university or not. Their happiness is the most important thing. Along the way I hope they learn, or I can teach these few things….

Be strong minded but not hard hearted. It is important to know what you want and to have the courage to go and get it for yourself. Accompany this with a warm heart and an ability to empathise with others and you will go far and be loved.

Have an opinion. Base this opinion on facts not hear say. Not everything you read or hear will be true. Don’t jump to conclusions. Be prepared to debate. Be prepared to have your opinion changed. Remain open minded. You won’t always be right, be gracious in defeat and always admit when you were wrong.

If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all. If asked for an opinion then yes, voice it. Sometimes, however, a question wasn’t asked, a debate wasn’t started. In this instance, if it is too hard to find something nice to say then just don’t say anything.

Ambition is important. What the ambition is isn’t overly relevant. Having ambition itself is what matters as it gives you drive and focus. You can do anything you set your minds to it. Hard work goes a long way.

Be organised. This can be hard to do at times. It is important to stay organised in both thoughts and process. Sometimes things happen in life that knock your confidence, don’t let these things get in the way.

Trust your own instincts. We are all individuals and because of this we will each take different paths in life. We will all enjoy and dislike different things. As they say ‘it takes all sorts to make the world go round’. Only you will know what is right for you. Trust you know the answer.

Stand up for what you believe in. Trust me no one else will.

Stand up for others. Not everyone is strong, and sometimes even strong people have their strength taken away from them. Don’t stand and watch people be bullied or have their confidence sucked from them. Stand up for what you know is right and give others a voice when they have lost theirs. Someday you may need them to return the favour.

Value yourself. There will be a lot of people that come and go throughout life, sadly many of them will try to take advantage of you. If you let them they will keep doing it. Know your worth and value it! Don’t let anyone walk all over you.

Be decisive and be determined. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes but learn from them.

Learn from other people’s mistakes and not just your own. This is hard to do but pay attention. There is no need to replicate someone else’s mistake.

Believe in karma. Trust me… What goes around come around.

Love freely. Those who love the most are loved the most.

Most importantly…

Be happy! Do what brings you joy. Be with people that make you happy, surround yourself with the good in the world. Happiness comes from within.

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My Mummy CV

Recently I’ve been feeling a little lost and confused about my daily life. I have no desire to go back to work at all, which is not like me, I have always had a strong work ethic. After Pinky was born my priorities changed and now two children down the line I actually quite like being a stay at home mum and because I don’t get the nursery drop off tears from the girls anymore I get a little less mum guilt, which is always a plus! Despite this I just feel a little bit worthless. I know this is silly but I thought it would be good to remind myself of just exactly what I do as a SAHM, so I thought I would write my ‘Mummy CV’.

Name: Mummy Winnette

Personal Profile: As a mother I am expert at functioning on a higher conscious level even after a torturous amount of sleep deprivation. I am a very patient person, I remain calm in stressful situations and yet when the appropriate occasion arises I can go so bat shit crazy that even the least judgemental person would give me a side glance. A talent which is enhanced by the sleep deprivation. This is an incredibly useful skill to ensure the health and safety of an overly curious toddler. I have eyes in the back of my head and a sixth sense for misbehaviour. My hearing is freakishly good. So much so that sometimes I pretend I haven’t heard something, even when I did, just so people don’t think I’m strange. My main hobby is baking and I love to teach this to my little girls. I know all the words to the opening song of Sophia the First, Doc Mcstuffins and Sheriff Callie as well as few CBeebies programmes. Plus the words to approximately 80% of the Disney songs from their animated films. This was the result of intensive self directed study from a very young age. I greatly enjoy watching pretty much anything on Netflix when time allows.

Education: Genuinely irrelevant at this point.

Training: No previous training in Motherhood. A total novice.

Additional skills:
Laundry Guru specialising in the removal of tomato sauce stains
Gourmet Cook (don’t try and tell me otherwise)
Nutritionist
White lie inventor
Language interpreter with a keen interest in toddler talk
Sibling Wars referee
Events coordinator
Health and safety executive
Cleaner
Snotty sleeve collector
Waitress
Nurse
Toy locator
Expert Negotiator
Miss Manners enforcer
Kindness and Sharing monitor
Teacher
Guidance councillor
Expert in Anger Management
Provider of emotional support
Cuddle giver
Bum wiper
Bathroom sharer and conversationalist
Librarian

References:

Pinky Winnette
Daughter 1
Aged 3 1/2

Perky Winnette
Daughter 2
Aged 1 1/2

I think this is a fairly accurate CV. It’s hard to explain to anyone without children exactly what being a parent is and this only gives a tongue in cheek insight. I love it and wouldn’t change it but sometimes it’s ok to need reminding of that.

If anyone thinks of any skills I have missed please let me know…