Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

New Christmas recipe

on December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day!

I’ve been rather quiet of late, I know. It’s been a difficult few weeks for me – I always struggle this time of the year with feeling low and lethargic and slightly bewildered, but some years seem to be worse than others, and this year seems to be one of Those Years. So I’ve struggled with doing more than the basics, and of course it’s been a time when more than the basics has been required of me – come to this carol service/Nativity play/concert, order presents/a turkey/tickets to things, write Christmas cards and letters (and I confess that my Christmas cards this year were written with very little joy or good will), remember birthdays which people keep on having, even though it’s Christmas. I feel I might well be part-human, part-small aestival creature when part of my brain seems to be bellowing Just hibernate – HIBERNATE, for goodness’ sake! from late October onwards. Although this year I, and a couple of friends, have noticed that this experience has had a later onset, which I put down to the beautiful summer weather we had – it appears that we can store up so much sunlight to last us further into the darker times.

Ann Voskamp‘s book The Greatest Gift, and her advent posts in her online journal have helped me enormously by reminding me to keep turning my focus back to Jesus when things get fraught, remembering that he’s what it’s all about – all the time, not just at Christmas. Something she said that really struck me (and I might be paraphrasing here as I’m typing this on my phone and it’s hard to crosscheck) is that whatever we do/don’t do, we’re not “ready for Christmas” until we’re ready for Christ.

But even with that in mind, gifts do need to be given, and especially to those to whom we’re really grateful for all they do. Southern Daddy and I have felt truly blessed by the school our girls attend and by the effort and sheer hard work the teachers so obviously devote to encouraging, challenging and enthusing the children in their learning (so much so that we’ve had to work quite hard ourselves seeking a suitable secondary school for the Bookworm next year that’s as similar as possible. But that’s another story for another time). Each year, as I’ve said in the past, I try to make or bake something special for them as a Christmas gift, and again in summer, to express our gratitude. This year I had the particular challenge of catering for a teacher who is gluten-free and another who is dairy-free. One or the other would be quite straightforward, but it’s much easier and more economical to whip up a couple of batches of something and give the same to everyone, so I worked on a gluten- and dairy-free recipe and was quite pleased with my final result (particularly as I’d been putting off trying it for so long I’d reached the point where if it hadn’t worked I’d have been in trouble!). Based on Mary Berry’s recipe, it’s a shortbread with (I think) a Christmassy twist that uses gluten-free flour, polenta as a gluten-free substitute for the semolina which gives it crunch and a combination of dairy-free margarine and vegetable shortening in place of the butter (as I felt the margarine on its own would not have provided the shortness you’d get with butter). I’d read that those fats would provide a rather less enjoyable flavour than butter, hence the inclusion of my Christmassy flavourings, which, at a different time of year, could be substituted with something else, such as lemon zest or lavender.

Spiced Satsuma Shortbread

225g/8oz gluten-free flour (I used Dove’s Farm)
100g/4oz caster sugar
100g/4oz dairy-free margarine (I used Pure)
100g/4oz vegetable shortening (I used Trex)
50g/2oz polenta
50g/2oz cornflour
Grated zest of 2 satsumas (and possibly the juice of 1)
Ground cinnamon and cloves, to taste (I used about 1tsp cinnamon and a pinch of cloves)
25g/1oz Demerara sugar

1.Grease a tray bake tin of about 30x23x4cm/12x9x1.5″ and line the base with a sheet of foil if you are worried about marking it with a knife. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/G3. (In the Over-Zealous Oven I do it at 140C, this may be a good guideline for fan ovens in general but you know your own oven!)

2.Rub the flour into the margarine and shortening, then add the other ingredients and work together to form a ball of dough, or process everything together in a food processor.

If it’s not coming together add the juice of one of the satsumas (more likely with gf flour as it requires more liquid).

3.Press the dough into the tin and spread it as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the top with Demerara sugar.

4. Bake for 30-40 minutes until pale golden and cooked through. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then cut into about 30 fingers. Lift out and finish cooling on a rack. I do recommend you try at least one warm, as there’s nothing to beat the delicious crumbliness of fresh shortbread straight from the tin!

There are no photos of these at present (another casualty of my bleak mood, I’m afraid), but in appearance they are not so different from ordinary shortbread. Everyone seems to have enjoyed them and I had a lovely email from one teacher (the dairy-free one) to thank us for considering her.

I’ve also had a couple of goes at 2-ingredient fudge from Beth Woolsey’s blog. I was skeptical about fudge you made in the microwave but I’ve now tried it twice (once with whisky and once with crushed candy canes) and it really is as good as she claims and useful for handing out to delivery people over the festive season!

Do share your Christmas cooking discoveries with me, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas!

Thankful for

The readings and the friends that sustained me through the busy, difficult weeks

The chance for a big rest for all of us!

Hearing my girls playing together and having the chance to “just be”

The sunshine in between the abundance of grey weather


2 responses to “New Christmas recipe

  1. Oh I am so sorry to read that things have been tough. I can relate though and it’s totally horrible. Well done for doing the things you’ve done and I hope you’re able to not beat yourself up about finding this season hard.

    I think you’re amazing for hand making anything! And, as for managing to write cards – you’re practically bionic!

    Keep going lovely one, here’s to things picking up soon. xx

    • northmum says:

      Thank you, sweet Alice! I sometimes think it makes me sound a bit fake, when one day I just sit & cry all day and the next I get up and do a whole lot of baking etc. But I’ve a couple of other friends who struggle too, to various degrees, and we all find it surprising what we are and aren’t capable of achieving during the low times. It’s so subjective, isn’t it?
      Anyway, I hope things are picking up for you and 2014 is a blessed year. Keep in touch xx

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