A few days ago I got back from my holiday in New Zealand. I still haven't settled back into a normal routine yet and haven't quite stopped buzzing from the experience. We have a phenomenal couple of weeks seeing the amazing scenery, magical wildlife encounters and even geeking out a little. Well, a lot of geeking out on my part. I got more than my fair share of The Lord of the Rings fixes as we travelled the whole country. As a lover of Tolkien and a lover of nature, NZ really covered all bases for me.
During that time, I had almost all my meals prepared for me. We had a few days where we bought salads and breads and avocado and had our own little picnic, but there wasn't much preparation needed on our part. After a while, I really started to miss it. Every time I saw an amazing cake or pastry I just wanted to bake. Before I left, I was getting really over the whole cooking thing, so the holiday came at a good time.
We arrived back home just in time to celebrate Valentine's Day and, quite soon, our anniversary. Celebrating it away from homw would have been loads of fun, but at home I get to bake. I have a huge To Bake list, but it was fitting to begin with some baked goods for the love of my life.
Sweet for my sweet…
Each year for our festive feast, I like to do something different with the place markers. Some years they're edible, some years they're not. Gingerbread makes for a great option as it allows so many creative possibilities. A couple of years ago I made chocolate gingerbread boxes and filled them with treats, the lids of which had everyone's names on it. This year, I opted for gingerbread gift tags.
Since the last time I made edible place settings, my partner's brother has opted for a vegan diet and his wife is vegetarian. My sister eats less types of fruit and vegetables than I have fingers on my hands, and my dad won't try anything he imagines he won't like (which encompasses anything that isn't roast meat or a casserole-type dish). Creating a menu that could suit everyone was definitely a challenge, but a welcome one.
The challenge for the gingerbread tags was finding a recipe that could suit a vegan dietary requirement, whilst still tasting appealing enough for the non-vegans.
It wouldn't be Christmas without a certain reindeer. Rudolph and his famous red nose feature here on a batch of peanut butter cookies.
Peanut butter cookies are one of my boyfriend's favourite ever things. When I'm picking his brain for ideas to bake, he usually requests them and I usually ignore him and look for something new. When I finally give in, it rekindles his love for them and he laments my lack of baking them more often. So when I finally decided on baking some rudolph cookies, peanut butter was the obvious choice.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose…
I couldn’t go past the fifth day of Christmas without making rings of some sort. Cookie wreaths seemed like the perfect option, but which recipe? I was tempted to make some piped shortbread, but after having made some Christmas shortbread already this year, it had to be something a bit different.
These Italian lemon biscuits were the perfect alternative.
Do you know when the 12 days of Christmas are? I didn't, so I visited my best friend – Wikipedia. They begin on the 25th of December. Of course. Christmas is about Jesus' birth, after all, so naturally the 12 days for follow it. I'd always thought they were the 12 days leading up to Christmas. I felt a bit silly.
Being non-religious, Christmas to me and my family has always been about taking time to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the wonderful people and experiences in your life, a time to say thank you. Christian celebrations have not entered into it, so I figured this lack of exposure to it was probably responsible for my derp moment. So I asked my Christian boyfriend, for whom his faith plays an important role in both his daily life and his family's Christmas celebrations, when he thought the 12 days were. His assumption was the same as mine. In fact, everyone who I asked, regardless of faith, assumed the same thing. So we all learnt a little something new.
I'd be planning a 12 days of Christmas blog series, assuming the 12 days where somewhere in December. Sharing recipes after Christmas felt a little moot. Besides, I won't be around much after Christmas, let alone for the 12 days proceeding. So we're going to do this the untraditional way. Every second day from now til the 23rd I'll bring you one of12 Christmas recipes.
This first recipe is something that's becoming a bit of a yearly tradition. Each year, I look for a way to reinvent it. Here's this year's take on it.
1 Christmas Tree…
This month in the Daring Baker's challenge, we got a little bit festive. Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us. She gave us 12 cookie recipe to choose from and challenged us to bake at least one of the 12 cookies, as well as our own celebration cookies.
Here's the two I baked for the challenge.
Double the noms…
Chocolate lace crisps are such a classic and easily identifiable biscuit. The cracked outer layer dusted with icing sugar makes a lovely contrast to the chewy inner layer.
I decided to change this one up a little, giving it a hint of another classic: red velvet.
Crack into them…