I'd like to begin by wishing you all a very merry Christmas! A little belated I'll admit, although given that today is only the third of twelve days of festivities I hope you'll forgive my tardiness.
Advent is always a busy time, especially for those that work in food. This year I just about managed to douse my Christmas cakes with brandy and make some remarkably solid royal icing before I ran for the train back to Rutland on Christmas Eve. I wish I'd managed to spend more time in the kitchen pre-Christmas, but life has a funny habit of getting in the way.
For me, this quiet week between Christmas Day and New Years' Eve offers the perfect solstice from the routine. It's a chance to switch off, sleep in and view the dismal weather as reason enough to stay indoors and indulge in homely comfort.
The luxurious warmth of sweet clementine finds it's way into many a December bake, marrying decadently with the spiced palette of Christmas cooking. These nutty Hispanic cookies, also known as Mexican Wedding Cookies or Mantecaditos, are the perfect platform for the sweet flavour of clementine to shine. The modest ingredients list, most satisfyingly, stays safely within the realms of your store cupboard essentials.
27 December 2015
For 18 cookies
125g unsalted butter, softened
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
100g plain flour
75g ground almonds
zest of 1 clementine
Preheat your oven to 160C and line a baking tray with parchment. Beat the softened butter and caster sugar for several minutes, until the mixture is pale and airy. Mix in the vanilla, clementine zest and salt, then sieve in the flour and ground almonds and mix until combined and smooth.
Using your hands, take a small piece of mixture and roll into a ball. Set this on the paper, press gently to flatten the base, then repeat until all the mixture is used. These quantities should make 18-20 cookies.
Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, then bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until risen and slightly golden. The cookies may crack a little on the surface when they are baked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
When you are ready to serve the cookies, dredge each one in icing sugar. Finish with a final, snowy dusting of icing sugar.