merry christmas and another gingerbread cookie recipe

magical gingerbread

Sometimes, you just gotta make a magical Christmas scene out of gingerbread. Sometimes, cookies are the only answer. Sometimes, 22 types of cookies just isn’t enough. Sometimes, gingerbread is all you need.

to start with

most important

Sometimes, Christmas is about these kinds of things. Of gingerbread, and ninjabread, of shortbread and yoyos and taking over someone else’s oven because yours stopped inexplicably stopped working in the middle of making a batch of the above biscuits. Or cookies, if you’re American. You know the word cookie most likely came from the Dutch koekje meaning “little cake”? This is especially cool for me since I have Dutch heritage.

flour

molasses

But sometimes, Christmas needs us to find its roots again amongst all the commercialism and competition. And not only that, but we need to find the de-sentimentalised Christmas. The Christmas that isn’t just about family and togetherness, lovejoypeaceJesus. Christmas is about more than that. Continue reading

swedish visiting cake

Every now and again, I get this urge to declutter. I have to get rid of my stuff and recently, it’s been gnawing at me a whole lot more. It’s not just the ‘oh, I have to tidy and I don’t really use that stuff anymore’; rather, I’m feeling like I need to live a lot simpler and enjoy life the way it was meant to be.

Plus, I have way too much stuff.

So recently, I’ve been sifting through the piles of stuff that I own and sorting them into piles. Stuff I want to keep, stuff I want to keep but don’t have room for at the moment, stuff I don’t want to keep, stuff I want to form into something else, stuff I’m using and stuff I’m not using. It’s a pretty big job and it doesn’t help that a lot of my stuff is still at my parents’ house. Yay, more stuff to go through.

My sister and I are planning to have a garage sale. We both have stuff to get rid of, but not enough for a sale each. (Although going through my stuff, I’m not so sure about that…:)

I come from a family of packrats. Hoarders. My Opa kept stuff in the back room, in his two garages and the tiny shed in the backyard, all over the back yard… my mum is queen of ‘we might use it later’ which is a mindset I’ve adopted. I’m also a collector, of sorts; I like pretty things, those free postcards, business cards, ribbons… I like to remember things.

I write things down and put them on my walls… I have a lot of paper related products lying around that need to go. Where, I’m not sure. They’ll probably end up in the recycling bin. Or possibly the fireplace, not sure yet.

With the help of Love and Trash, Courtney at be more with less, the bloggers at SuperForest and a whole bunch of other influences (including Jesus and some of his followers) I am on a journey to live simply so that others may simply live. On that note, let’s talk about cake.

This is a simple cake. It comes together in about ten minutes, takes about half an hour to bake and is simply delicious. It’s called a Swedish Visiting Cake and so in another, yet somehow related train of thought it immediately brings to mind not only visitors, but visiting – getting to know your neighbours, connecting with real people instead of a computer screen.

And yes, I’m aware that you’re reading this off a computer screen.

The point is that by learning to live without, others can live with. And you don’t even notice the difference, except that you’re happier, more content with yourself and with the world. Surprising, isn’t it?

So make the cake. Bring it to a neighbour’s house and share it over stories, stories that remind you that each person you encounter is the star of their own story, just as you are the star of your own.

Swedish Visiting Cake

Adapted from Baking: from my home to yours

zest of one lemon

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 tsp salt

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste/scrapings from one vanilla bean/two teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup plain flour*

125g butter, melted and cooled

 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and butter your pan. Traditionally this is made in a cast-iron skillet. I don’t have one so I made it in a springform tin – I suggest using a nine-incher, as my ten-incher cake turned out a little thin. Not that I’m complaining…

Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until incredibly lemony and you can just help yourself licking your fingers. Or not. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Add the salt and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.

Fold in the flour, then the butter. Pour into your pan and sprinkle the almonds over the top. Bake about half an hour.

Share with strangers.

*The first time I made it, I made it with spelt flour and it was amazing. I think you could also do this with a mix of almond flour and perhaps another type of flour for the gluten-free among us. Just a thought.

comfort, again

Like I said a few days ago, I like to bake to calm myself down, it makes me happy. Today I made choc-chip condensed milk cookies, which I’d never made before – I never thought of using condensed milk in biscuits.

I was going to make them last night because I was super frazzled and basically at the end of my tether, but we ended up whiling the night away by other means, like eating pizza and chatting with friends, then getting into a long discussion on what actually happens when we die; what happens at the end; and how we would cope if we didn’t have hope in Jesus. Because really, at the moment, that’s what’s keeping us together.

So I was home alone for a few hours and I couldn’t just spend it all trawling the internet, much as I’d love to; I’d go stir crazy simply because I need to DO something. So cookies it is.

I promised them for after Easter, because I was giving chocolate up for Lent; I’m sure I’ll pontificate at some point on sacrifices and the importance of them, but that went out the window approximately a week ago and for some reason, I don’t think God will mind. So here they are; a day late and a buck short, but here they are.

Choc-chip condensed milk cookies

This makes a lot of cookies. A LOT of cookies. I fit about five or six on each pizza tray (we don’t have baking trays; pizza trays work just as well. We’re students. We make do.) Also, I think you probably won’t need as much butter, I felt there was too much there.

adapted from the back of the Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk* can

450g butter

½ cup sugar

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3 ½ cups self raising flour

250g dark chocolate, chopped

250g milk chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line baking trays with baking paper (I used two and reused them. It worked fine, even though I didn’t really let the trays cook in between uses). Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in condensed milk; add flour and stir till combined. Mix in choc bits. Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into balls, place on trays and flatten gently with a fork. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until golden.

*Look, I know Nestle are evil; I’ve read the articles and I totally support fair trade and ethical eating and shopping (check out the ethical consumer’s guide to shopping for more on that) but it was either this or home brand and that’s just as bad. We wanted to make condensed milk cookies and after the week we’ve had, ethics are pretty much the last things on our minds.