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Cinnamon Christmas decorations

While I’m waiting until it’s December before doing any Christmas food posts, I figured those of you who like doing Christmas-y crafts might want to get started. Every year I have a list of craft projects I intend to do, but my list tends to get more and more impressive while I manage to make very little! And Pinterest just makes this worse. But, I was spurred on to make these decorations from Martha Stewart, thinking that Nicholas would have fun helping me. And he did.

Making them is just like making a cookie dough and cutting out your shapes, but this dough isn’t edible. Thankfully Nicholas didn’t try to put too many pieces in his mouth, probably because he was having so much fun sprinkling cinnamon everywhere (and I do mean everywhere). He kept calling the shapes we pressed out ‘biscuits’ and almost every time he goes into the living room where I’ve strung some of them above our fireplace, he points and says either ‘yum’ or ‘biscuit’. Well they do look like yummy gingerbread and smell divine.

When you’re rolling out the dough, be generous with extra sprinklings of cinnamon to avoid the dough sticking to your work bench or rolling pin. Use it just as you’d use extra flour when rolling out cookie dough.

You can dry your decorations in a slow oven or let them dry on their own. I let them dry naturally overnight (let them have at least 24 hours). The thicker shapes dried better without having to use anything to weigh them down to keep them flat, while the ones we rolled out thinner curled up easily. Rolling out your dough to about 5mm thick seems to work well.

While Martha Stewart made intricately decorated birds using cardboard templates and glitter, we stuck to a few Christmas-shaped cookie cutters and I decorated them simply (in a way I think kids would enjoy doing themselves without too much mess). I tried using a silver pen, drawing little stars (the bottom left star in the photo above), but preferred using 3D fabric paint as it was thicker and therefore easier to apply to the leather-like surface. You could also use glitter pens, or lightly paint the surface with glue and dip in glitter.

I’m sure you can think of other ways of using these decorations rather than just hanging them from your Christmas tree or stringing them into garlands. Why not turn them into gift tags or make place settings?

The original recipe uses applesauce to make the dough pliable. I couldn’t be bothered defrosting a bag of homemade applesauce, so I used a tub of apple and strawberry baby puree I had in the cupboard. It did the job.

Who knows whether these decorations will make it to next Christmas, but then it’s such a nice activity I think it could become a tradition making more every year to decorate the house.

CINNAMON CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

Makes about 16 cookie-sized decorations

1 cup (100g) ground cinnamon, plus extra for rolling out dough
1/4 cup applesauce or apple puree
1/2 cup craft glue

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the cinnamon and applesauce with a rubber spatula until combined.

Add the glue and stir until you can bring the dough together into a ball. Knead it a little and then leave to rest for an hour.

Sprinkle your work surface with the extra cinnamon and dust your rolling pin. Cut off about a third of the dough and roll it flat until it’s about 5mm thick. If at any time the dough becomes too dry, spray with a little water.

Cut out your shapes with cookie cutters or cut around templates. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Use a straw to poke a hole in each shape for hanging (or use a skewer if your shapes are small).

Dry your ornaments on a wire rack lined with paper towel for approximately 24 hours (turning them every 6 hours or so if you can, to keep them flat). Otherwise you can dry them in the oven on a baking paper-lined tray for 2 hours at 95C turning them halfway through.

Once completely dry, decorate as you wish or leave them plain.

After Christmas, store them in a cool dry space, wrapped individually in tissue paper.

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Scary finger biscuits

The countdown is on for Halloween, and one of my oldest and dearest friends, Kath, made these fabulously spooky fingers with her son. Are you brave enough to try them?

There are quite a few pins of severed finger biscuits floating around on Pinterest, but I loved that Kath’s version look like zombie fingers that have clawed their way out of the ground! The spooky effect is easily achieved by dying flaked almonds for the fingernails and dusting the cooked biscuits with some cocoa powder ‘dirt’. Kath also added some spots of green food colouring for a mouldy effect!

Kath used a simple plain biscuit recipe from Martha Stewart. The recipe makes a lot, but you can freeze the leftover dough for up to three months and make some different biscuits another time.

SCARY FINGERS

Prep time: 20 mins, plus 20 mins for dough to chill
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes about 30 fingers

2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Flaked almonds
Black food colouring (or red and blue food colouring mixed together)
Cocoa powder for dusting

Colour almonds by putting them in a bowl and covering with food colouring, leaving them to soak until they become black. Dry on paper towel.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

In a food processor, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and then on a low setting, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Take the dough out of the food processor and press it together. Divide it in two, wrap each piece in cling film (or place in a ziploc bag) and freeze until firm (about 20 mins).

Preheat oven to 160C and line oven trays with baking paper.

Take one piece of dough from the freezer and shape it into fingers by rolling pieces to about 8-10cm in length (if the dough is too hard, let it stand for 5-10 mins to soften a little).

Squeeze one end of each biscuit to form the finger tip and again near the centre to form the knuckle. Use the back of a knife to lightly score around the knuckles. Press a coloured almond flake into each finger tip to create the nail. Repeat with the other piece of dough or leave it frozen for another day.

Place the fingers on the oven trays and bake for 10-15 mins.

Let cool and lightly dust with cocoa powder.

Variations:

  • Use whole unblanched almonds for fingernails without colouring them, or whole blanched almonds painted with food colouring.
  • Dab red jam on the end of each biscuit for freshly severed fingers.
  • Colour the biscuit dough with food colouring to make monster fingers.

Cupcake inspiration

It’s the last day of National Cupcake Week. I haven’t managed to make any more worth blogging about, but wanted to share some inspiring ones (and they’re super cute too!) that I can’t wait to try when Nicholas is just a teeny bit bigger.

The Mini Mes and MeSpace Cupcakes

Check out lovely Emma’s blog (I love the title!) for her fizzy flying saucers and edible glitter sitting on chocolate ganache. What kid (little or big) wouldn’t love these?!

Cindy Littlefield’s Squirt Happy Turtles

A few jelly sweets turn ordinary cupcakes into something super cute.

Annabel Karmel’s Piggy Cupcakes

A few marshmallows and some writing icing are all you need to create some piggies (and don’t forget the curly tails!).

Baking Bites – Rainbow Cupcakes

By dividing up the batter and colouring it different rainbow colours, you can easily create the happiest cupcakes.

Daily Dish Blog – Mummy Cupcakes

Shari at Daily Dish Blog found the perfect cupcakes to make  for Halloween (there aren’t any directions, but a few lines of white icing and some mini MandMs are all you need).

Update (22 Nov 2012): I finally found the original source for these cute mummy cupcakes and what’s even better is they’re low-fat! Gina at Skinny taste has detailed instructions, so now there’s no excuse not to make them!

Martha Stewart’s Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

Melting a marshmallow into the top is a super simple and super yummy way to finish your cupcakes.