I usually use the cookie press to make these, because I find they look particularly festive in little wreath shapes,” says food writer Anja Dunk.
“If you aren’t so keen on icing you can sprinkle each biscuit with a little demerara sugar before baking – this adds a pleasing crunch and caramel note to the cookie.”
Christmas spiced shortbread
275g (2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
50g (¹⁄₃ cup) cornflour (cornstarch)
50g (½ cup minus 1 tbsp) ground almonds (almond flour)
50g (½ cup minus 1 tbsp) ground hazelnuts
250g (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into 2cm/¾in cubes
175g (¾ cup plus 2 tbsp) soft light brown sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground anise (or a drop of anise extract)
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk for the glaze
100g (scant ¾ cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
25ml (scant 2 tbsp) just boiled water
1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F and line two baking trays with nonstick baking parchment.
2. Put all the ingredients into the mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat to a soft, pliable dough on a low speed for a couple of minutes. (If making by hand, put both flours, the ground almonds and ground hazelnuts into a large bowl, then work the butter in with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix through the sugar, salt and spices. Add the vanilla extract and milk, and bring the dough together with your hands. Knead for three minutes until pliable.)
3. If using a cookie press, select your preferred shape, then stuff the dough into the top. Hold the press over a prepared baking tray and click the handle to release one cookie. Repeat this process, placing each cookie 1cm apart to allow for spreading.
4. If using the mincer method, choose the desired attachment and place your dough in the funnel. Crank the handle with one hand, holding the other hand just below the spout to support the dough as it comes out. When the dough protrudes by 6cm, cut it off and place it on a baking sheet. Repeat this process, spacing the biscuits one centimetre apart, until both sheets are full. Bake for eight to 10 minutes until just golden.
5. If you don’t have a mincer or cookie press and are making the biscuits by hand, take small, walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into sausage shapes around 5cm long. Place them 2cm apart on the sheets. Press a fork gently into the top edge of each biscuit and drag it down the length of the dough, flattening and lengthening it as you go. Bake as above, but allow at least 10 minutes (hand-formed biscuits tend to be thicker and so take longer to bake).
6. While the biscuits are baking, put the icing sugar into a bowl, pour in the just-boiled water and mix vigorously until a glossy glaze forms.
7. Allow the cooked biscuits to cool for a minute before transferring to a wire rack. Using a pastry brush, glaze each biscuit while still warm. Repeat the whole process again with any remaining dough. Store in an airtight container for up to four weeks.
Recipe from ‘Advent: Festive German Bakes To Celebrate The Coming Of Christmas’ by Anja Dunk (published by Quadrille, £25; photography by Anja Dunk), available now.