Make it a December to remember. At last, it's nearly Christmas! Enjoy the 24 days of Advent that lead up to the big day, sharing delicious recipes, fun crafting projects, made-by-you gifts and simple yet stunning decorations from this beautiful little book. Slow down, spend time with loved ones and make your home feel truly festive. There's a touch of the northern hemisphere to it, but it's all very Christmasy.
- Advent, by Laura Fleiter and Kerstin Niehoff. Photography by Kerstin Niehoff. Murdoch Books, $24.99.
What food is absolutely essential for the Christmas spirit? Chocolate, of course! These pretty little cookies will delight every chocolate lover.
100g cold butter
100g raw sugar
1/2 tsp ground vanilla
1 cup spelt flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup almond meal
50g white cooking chocolate
1. Preheat the oven to 175C. Dice the butter and place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the sugar, vanilla, flour, baking powder, cocoa, almond meal and eggs. Quickly combine to make a smooth dough.
2. Roll out the dough about 5mm thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut out your favourite shapes and transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes.
3. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Chop the chocolate. Gently melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Transfer to a piping bag with a narrow nozzle. Decorate the cookies with the chocolate.
4. These chocolate cookies will keep for about three months in a tin. Make sure that the tin seals well to keep the cookies dry. Most likely they'll be gone well before Christmas, though!
Tip: If you don't have a piping bag, make your own by snipping off one corner of a freezer bag to create a hole with a diameter of about 3mm.
Makes about 20.
Pomegranate and gin punch
While mulled wine is always popular, why not try something different? We suggest you branch out to a fruity-fresh punch that not only tastes delicious, but will also warm you and your loved ones through and through.
4 cups cloudy apple juice
300ml ginger beer
1 organic orange
2 star anise
3 cinnamon sticks
1. Halve the pomegranates and juice the halves using a lemon juicer. Transfer the pomegranate juice, apple juice and ginger beer to a large saucepan.
2. Peel off three to four strips of orange zest with a vegetable peeler and add these to the saucepan. Halve and juice the orange. Add the orange juice, star anise and cinnamon sticks to the saucepan. Gently heat the mixture over low heat for about 20 minutes. Don't let the liquid boil!
3. Divide the punch among mugs and top each with a generous shot of gin.
Red velvet cranberry cake
This festive tiered cake is bound to leave an impression, both visually and flavour-wise. Its exquisite combination of cream and fruit hits all the right notes, plus it makes for an absolute eye-catcher during the Christmas season.
For the cake:
250g butter, softened, plus a little extra for the tin
200g raw sugar
1 pinch sea salt
1 tsp ground vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp red food colouring
3 1/3 cups spelt flour
4 tsp baking powder
50ml cranberry juice (or use milk)
For the frosting:
500g cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
200ml single cream
2/3 cup dried cranberries
cranberries and rosemary, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Butter an 18cm springform cake tin.
2. Whisk the butter, raw sugar and salt until foamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue whisking until creamy, then stir in the food colouring. Combine the spelt flour and baking powder and gradually fold into the butter and egg mixture, alternating with the milk and cranberry juice.
3. Pour the batter into the tin. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for one hour. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
4. For the frosting, put the cream cheese in a bowl. Sift the icing sugar on top and mix well. Whip the cream until stiff, then fold it into the mixture.
5. Carefully halve the cooled cake horizontally to make two layers. Spread the bottom half with half of the frosting. Arrange the dried cranberries on top, then replace the top cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the cake. Garnish with fresh cranberries and rosemary, if desired.
Makes an 18 cm cake.
White cinnamon and almond crackles
A perfect combination of fragrant cinnamon and white chocolate. If you want to use these crackles as a gift, we suggest you make enough for yourself as well. Otherwise they might never make it to the intended recipient ...
3/4 cup slivered almonds
200g white cooking chocolate
4 tbsp puffed quinoa
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt
1. Toast the slivered almonds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water.
2. Combine the quinoa puffs and almonds with the cinnamon and salt. Stir the mixture into the melted chocolate.
3. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Use a teaspoon to scoop spoonfuls of the chocolate and almond mixture onto the tray. Leave to set completely.
4. Transfer the crackles to pretty boxes or a cookie tin. They will keep for one to two months if they're tightly sealed.
Tip: Allow your creativity to go wild with this recipe. Use different types of nuts or seeds with the remaining ingredients to make your very own crackles recipe.
Makes about 20.