My friend La and I recently spent the weekend in the Central-West NSW rural town of Orange, to escape the city, pick some cherries, eat good food, taste some wine, and just have a bit of a break in this (unnecessarily) crazy time of the year. I general avoid having to go to shopping centres or anywhere around large masses of people, so it’s not surprising that traditional Christmas shopping isn’t high on my list of things I love to do. Christmas Day is my favourite day but I dislike the craziness of Christmas, with everyone running around stressing about everything they ‘have’ to do and all the gifts they ‘have’ to get.
I love giving gifts as much as anyone, but I’m of the mind that too many of us have way more ‘stuff’ than we need, and too many gifts are given because the giver feels ‘obliged’ instead of putting a little time and effort into giving thoughtful, useful gifts that won’t end up gathering dust, in the bin, etc. So for Christmas this year, I’ve decided that all my gifts will be consumable and home made, in an effort to minimise my contribution to landfill. On our way home from Orange, we took a little detour through the historic little town of Millthorpe, and spent a few hours wandering around their biannual markets and picturesque little streets. Along the way we came across a little homewares store, Tomolly, where I bought a ‘home made’ cookie stamp, to make the first of my Xmas pressies.
There’s nothing particularly ‘groundbreaking’ about this recipe – just a little Australian twist on the traditional ‘gingerbread’ cookies.
- 125g butter or ghee, at room temperature
- 100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 125mL (1/2 cup) Leatherwood honey*
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 cups plain flour (normal or gluten free is fine)
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp mixed spice / allspice
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 pinch salt
- plain flour, to roll
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until creamy and pale.
- Add the honey and egg yolk and beat until combined.
- Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed/allspice, bicarb & salt until all combined.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your palms until smooth. Work dough into a neat disc, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
- For these ‘stamped’ cookies, I tore off rough lumps of the dough and pressed them into fat little disks between my palms, then using the stamp, pressed them into half-centimeter cookies. You could also roll the dough between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper until it is about half-centimeter think, then cut shapes out using cookie cutters. (NB: If you are making a dairy/gluten free version, the pastry will be more crumbly so you’re better off pushing the dough down into the desired thickness with the palms of your hands, rather than rolling the dough.)
- Place cookies on baking tray covered in baking-paper and cook for 10 minutes (they will just slightly start to turn brown on the edges).
- Remove from the oven and using an egg-flip/spatula, carefully place on wire racks to cool (they will still be a little soft when you first bring them out of the oven, and harden as they cool).
These will store in airtight jars / containers / tins for up to a month.
* For a distinctly “Australian” slant, I used ‘leatherwood honey’. Widely available, this honey is produced in Wilderness areas home to the leatherwood tree (and flower nectar), which is unique to the rainforests in south-west Tasmania. It has a lovely distinct taste (but any honey will be fine).