Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas... or at least Gingerbread Snowflakes & Eggnog

This week got off to a start with a particularly festive flavour due to a substantial snow fall in the English capital. I say "substantial" but having been born and raised in he east coast of Canada, most of my family and friends at home would laugh at such an exaggerated description of events. Still in a city like London, which is not accustomed to such weather, anything beyond a light dusting can bring everything to a standstill.

When the snow began to fall I was completing the last bit of shopping in Islington. At first it started as light rain but within a few minutes big fluffy flakes began to fall. In the years I have lived in London I have never seen such a beautiful scene as Upper Street in a blanket of snow. Distinctly Dickensian! How I regret being without a camera or without E. who rarely leaves the house without a camera.

The next morning our neighbourhood was still shrouded in snow. My task for the day was to decorate gingerbread cookies, both for eating and for decorating the tree. While my gingerbread snowflakes are not as beautiful as those that fell from the skies of London, I am still pretty pleased with how they turned out.

Of course gingerbread cookies can be enjoyed with a cup of tea or a simple glass of milk, but in keeping with my frenzy for all things home-made I decided I would make some eggnog. While eggnog is a bit too sweet for my tastes, E. loves it; reminding him of the year he spent in Minnesota when he was a kid. As you can imagine, that experience left E. with a sound understanding of substantial snow fall.

So whether you need a break from shovelling yourself out from your own substantial snowfall or just fancy something sweet, these gingerbread snowflakes & eggnog will warm you from the inside out.

Photos of of our back garden and Alexandra Park by E.

Gingerbread Snowflakes
Adapted from
400 grams plain flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoonbaking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
120 g unsalted butter
100 g caster sugar
1 large egg
160 ml treacle or molasses

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and place rack in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Cut out the cookies with a utter of your choice. With a spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 2.5 cm apart.

Bake for about 8 - 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies and your preference of crispiness. Decorate with royal icing once completely cool.

adapted from
475 ml milk
3 whole cloves
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 egg yolks
150 g sugar
475 ml light cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over low setting for about 5 minutes. Slowly bring milk mixture to a boil.

In large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar beating together until fluffy. Slowly add hot milk mixture to egg yolk/sugar mixture one cup at a time beating with an electric mixer at a low speed after each cup.

Once fully incorporated return to the saucepan and cook over medium/low heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves, and let cool for about an hour.

Stir in cream, vanilla and grated nutmeg.

While you can add your preferred spirit directly to the eggnog I prefer to add it to the mug just before pouring the eggnog. Top with a bit of grated nutmeg.


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