Permanently pitched in the Dead Simple Camp - possibly sharing a tent with peppermint bark - are these stained glass window biscuits, which combine being a complete cinch to make with superbiscuit good looks. They look gorgeous on a Christmas tree, make a perfect gift for a hostess or visitor, and their delicate, glowy appearance belies the breathtaking lack of effort that went into creating them. This is a WIN-WIN-WIN situation.
Most recipes I've seen call for the crushing of your boiled sweets (they make up the 'stained glass' part of your biscuit's window). I tried, and I'm a strong Highland lassie, and promptly gave up. Perhaps it's because I used Glacier Fruits rather than traditional boilings, but either way, I was having none of this caper. I placed a whole sweet in the centre of each biscuit, crossed my fingers, and waited. Lo, this worked wonderfully well and the sweet melted evenly and quickly, so save yourself the wrist ache and dislocated shoulder and follow my lead.
Stained Glass Window Biscuits (makes 25-30)
You will need:
- 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 125g golden caster sugar
- 250g plain flour
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- A pinch of ground cinnamon
- A pinch of ground ginger
- A pinch of freshly-ground black pepper
- 25-30 coloured boiled sweets - I used Fox's Glacier Fruits and they were the perfect size and consistency
- Star cookie cutters in two sizes - one to cut the main shape, and one for the hole inside. Or, go wild and use whatever festive shapes you like - you can always cut the interior hole by hand using a sharp knife!
- Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3. Line three standard-sized baking trays with parchment.
- Mix the butter and sugar by hand until smooth. Add the flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper and mush it together using your (clean) hands.
- Lightly flour a work surface and, using a floured pin, roll the dough out to about 5mm thick. Cut your large stars and transfer to the baking trays. Then cut out the centres using the smaller cutter, or by hand. Be sure to leave about 1cm of biscuit all around the hole, otherwise your finished biscuits will be too fragile to hang. Continue until all the dough is used up (remember to use up the discarded centre stars, too!).
- You may want to tidy up the inside edges with a toothpick at this stage, if you're hot on the little details. The sweets will be see-through, with a hint of colour, so any crumbs of dough will be seen.
- Place a sweet in the centre of each biscuit, and then pierce a hole (if you want to hang the biscuits as decorations) in the top of each using a straw or toothpick.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes. The biscuits - and sweet centres - will harden once they're out of the oven, so don't worry if they look a bit squidgy once the time is up.
- Transfer the trays to a wire rack, but don't move the biscuits until the centres have had time to fully harden - about ten minutes should do it. Then remove from the parchment and leave to cool properly.
- String each hole with ribbon and place the biscuits somewhere the light can shine through, for maximum stained glass effect!