The old favourites are the best- iced Christmas cookies

I always use this recipe when making batches of biscuits for icing; it’s my twist on a Nigella Lawson Classic

A cup of treats

A cup of treats

for the biscuits

  • 300g plain flour (plus more for dusting)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp ground cloves
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 4 tablespoons runny honey

for the icing and trimmings

  • 300 g instant royal icing (from packet)
  • decorations

Method

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/350ºF.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper in a food processor and, with the motor on, add the butter and sugar, then, slowly, the beaten eggs and runny honey, though don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up.
  3. Form 2 fat discs and put one, covered in clingfilm or in a freezer bag, in the fridge while you get started on the other.
  4. Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 5mm / ¼ inch and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice.
  5. Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the residue from this first disc, well covered, while you get on with rolling out the second. When you’ve got both sets of leftover clumps of dough, roll out and cut out again, and keep doing so till all the dough’s used up.
  6. Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined baking sheets and cook for about 20 minutes: it’s hard to see when they’re cooked, but you can feel; if the underside is no longer doughy, they’re ready. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  7. Make up the instant royal icing, beating it until it’s thick enough to be able to cover the biscuits with a just-dripping blanket of white.
  8. Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping, the back for smoothing), and scatter sparkles or sprinkles as you like.

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