My daughter started her first paid job in October as an online intern for House and Garden magazine. This means she queues up social media posts on Twitter and Facebook, ‘builds content’ for the site and occasionally writes pieces. It also means she works at Vogue House bang in the centre of London, she gets to bring home posh glossy magazines and go to sample sales at Vogue.
Yes, she’s all grownupy. It’s quite amazing. What a journey it is as a mum to watch her progress. But she’s still my little girl and most days I make her packed lunch, buy her spare tights if I’m at the shops, and brought her back a fitting handbag from Sicily.
House and Garden peops are a crafty lot – meaning they are good with their hands. Every year they have a Christmas lunch in which they do a handmade ‘Secret Santa’ which they take quite seriously as the standard is so high. Apparently Secret Santas are now a thing. What is a Secret Santa? It’s a kind of Christmas present lottery. You put all the names of the group in a hat, establish a rule (‘everything must be handmade’) or a budget (‘a fiver each’), pick out a name and do a gift for that person.
I don’t remember having Secret Santas when I was young but nowadays they have them at uni, amongst house mates, in any large group where it’s not realistic to buy everyone a present each.
For Sienna’s Secret Santa present we made Christmas cookie decorations. They taste great, with a lovely crumbly texture, as well as looking good. Buy some skinny ribbon to hang them on the tree and make sure the fairy lights are nestled behind the little ‘windows’.
From the Editorial Assistant, Sienna received the most beautifully handmade apron in grey linen with her initials embroidered. Clever House and Garden!
Christmas Decoration Cookies
Silpats or parchment paper
Flat baking trays/ biscuit trays
Christmassy Biscuit Cutters in different shapes
Smaller cutters for the inserts
Thin ribbon to hang the cookies
340g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
450g plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated or ground
1/2 tsp clove, ground
1 tsp black pepper, ground
40 boiled sweets in red or green
Brown the butter in a small saucepan, taking care not to let it burn, let it cool.
Beat the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla together in a stand mixer or large bowl until fluffy and light.
Then add the eggs gradually, beating in between each addition.
In a large bowl mix flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and pepper together then gradually add to the butter/sugar mixture.
Knead the dough into two disks, covering with cling film and leaving to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
Roll out the dough to 5mm(1/4 inch thick) cutting out the different shapes. If the dough attaches itself to your rolling pin, then I roll between two silpats or pieces of parchment paper.
Cut out the inserts, removing carefully with a knife.
Transfer to a flat baking tray that (fits in your fridge) covered with a silpat or parchment paper.
Make holes for the ribbons. Make these larger than you think as they close up during baking.
To prevent ‘spread’ put the baking tray with the cut out biscuits back in the fridge to chill for fifteen minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 180ºc
Each time gather the scraps and roll out again to 5mm and cut out more biscuits.
Do a kind of rolling production line for this, depending on how many biscuit trays you have and space in your fridge.
Cut the boiled sweets in half and place a sweet in each insert. This will melt during baking to fill the hole and make a stained glass ‘window’.
Bake the biscuits for around 10 minutes or until golden brown. Once you take the tray out of the oven, you may have to open up the holes again with a metal prong.
Leave to cool.
Carefully thread the ribbon through the hole.
Presented in a box interleaved with baking parchment this makes a beautiful present or Christmas tree decorations.