The evenings are getting darker, the lights are all a-twinkle and the Christmas jumpers are being grabbed from the back of the wardrobe and washed, ready to rock. So, what better time than now to go fully festive and start prepping some classic Christmas sweet treats to see you through the season?
Whether you’re after something totally traditional, or fancy adding a contemporary twist on an old-school holiday bake, we’ve got six super simple recipes to get you in the seasonal spirit, each with an idea of how you can elevate.
The question is, will you stick, or twist?
1. MINCE PIES
Apart from Noddy Holder, nothing says ‘it’s Christmaaaaas’ more than being too full to fit in a mince pie (but absolutely managing it anyway.) Yes, it’s the time of year when these sweet, buttery, pastry delights have their star moment and it simply wouldn’t be Yuletide without them. But if you’re looking to change this up this year, a tiny bit of cheese (yes, really) could make all the difference.
For classic mince pies, you’ll need:
500g Jus-Rol Shortcrust Pastry Flour, for rolling out
150g Extra Special Brandy & Port Mincemeat
Icing sugar, to dust
· Use the 8cm rounds of pastry to line the holes of a bun tray, then put 1 rounded tsp mincemeat in each.
· Dampen the edges of the pastry bases with water and put the 7cm rounds on top. Press along the edges to seal. Make a small hole in the centre of each lid with a sharp knife.
· Bake for 25 mins. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve hot or cold, dusted with icing sugar.
For all cheese-lovers, why not add a little finely grated parmesan for an umami hit? Sweet
2. SPICED SNOWMAN BISCUITS
Spiced Christmas biscuits are a staple at this time of year, perfect to accompany an afternoon cuppa or the ideal homemade gift to make with children for their little friends. But if you’ve got the oven on, why not make an extra batch that double up as present tags? Biodegradable in a way, as they’re edible!
For festive spiced biscuits, you’ll need:
225g plain flour
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp ground ginger
150g butter, softened, plus 25g for the icing
100g caster sugar
2 large egg yolks
Icing to decorate
· Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. In a bowl, sift together the flour with the cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of salt.
· In another bowl, beat 150g of the butter and the caster sugar together until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks. Add the flour mixture and stir until it forms large clumps.
· Gather the dough together with your hands and knead lightly – just enough to make a stiff dough.
· Pat to make a flat cake. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
· Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of cling film to a thickness of 5mm. Remove the cling film and use a gingerbread man cutter to cut out snowmen shapes. Put on the baking trays, leaving a gap between each one.
· Roll out any leftover dough and cut out more biscuits.
· Bake the biscuits in the oven for 12 minutes. Leave on the trays to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and then ice.
Turn your biscuits into edible gift tags! You don't need a gift tag-shaped biscuit cutter - just draw out the shape onto a piece of baking paper, cut it out and use it as a template on the dough to cut around. You could even ice each person's name using an icing pen.
3. CHRISTMAS CAKE
Love it or kinda loathe it, a Christmas cake loaded with juicy fruit and festive booze is often the main traditional event (soz, turkey.) The joy of a good Christmas cake is that leftovers keep for weeks – you can even freeze them! Go to town with decorations, or keep it simple, the presentation is up to you – just like the booze that you lace it with. Move over, brandy!
For a classic Christmas cake, you’ll need:
1 kg Asda Mixed Dried Fruit
100ml brandy (or rum)
215g butter, softened
215g soft brown sugar
4 large free-range eggs
225g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp ground mixed spice
1 orange, grated zest of
1 unwaxed lemon, grated zest of
75g ground almonds
100g glacé cherries, quartered
Put the dried fruit in a bowl with the brandy or rum. Cover with cling film and leave for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Line a 22cm deep round tin with three layers of baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 150C/130C Fan/Gas 2.
Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, spice, zest and almonds together in a large bowl until creamy. Stir in the cherries with the dried fruit and its liquid.
Put the mixture in the tin and wrap it.
Bake for 2 hours, then reduce the oven to 140C/120C Fan/Gas 1. Cook for another 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from the tin and cool on a rack. When cold, store in an airtight box or tin.
Switch out the brandy for something a little different this year. Vanilla Vodka will bring a contemporary sweetness to the cake, Gingerbread Rum will add extra warmth or try Amaretto for a hint of Christmassy almond.
4. CHOCOLATE FUDGE
Squares of rich, chocolate fudge are ideal for when you simply couldn’t eat another thing but, oh, well, go on then. They also make wonderfully simple but effective gifts as part of a thoughtful, homemade holiday hamper. But if you want to give your fudge a special seasonal kick, just raid the fruit bowl.
For traditional chocolate fudge, you’ll need:
275g caster sugar
150ml evaporated milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 100g bags milk chocolate drops
· Line the base and sides of a shallow 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
· Put the butter, caster sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt in a pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer steadily for 6 minutes exactly.
· Remove from the heat, then add the chocolate straight away. Stir until melted.
· Turn into the prepared tin, level the top and leave for 2 hours. Cut into 20 squares.
Grate the zest of one clementine and/or add a handful of cranberries into the mixture to take your chocolate fudge to seriously festive level.
5. PEANUT TRUFFLES
Not super traditional, but Christmas is all about indulgence – and what’s more indulgent than both peanut butter
For peanut truffles, you’ll need:
250g crunchy peanut butter
100g white chocolate, melted
· In a small bowl, mix the peanut butter and melted white chocolate until well combined.
· Cool in the fridge for 10 minutes.
· While the mixture is still slightly soft, divide into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Chill for 10 minutes more.
· Roll each ball in chocolate sprinkles and pop into a treat bag.
Substitute the chocolate sprinkles for red edible glitter and – taa daaah! – you have a batch of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer truffles.