Advent 2011 : Spice it up

I love the smells of Christmas – those traditional aromatic festive spices used time and again in the dishes that scream Christmas – cinammon, star anise, cardamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and, of course my all-time favourite cloves.

So, in the last few days of Advent before the day itself is upon us I thought I’d share one or two spicy Country Gate  traditions. Today Stem Ginger Shortbread – a perfect partner to your festive morning coffee when friends drop in with cards and gifts or in the tuckbox when, like us, you’re travelling the length and breadth of the country to see family in far-flung corners. I’d recommend it particularly as a snack for children suffering from travel sickness – (or adults suffering from post-Office party sickness) . Ginger really seems to hit the spot. It’s also good for colds. Grate two tablespoons of fresh ginger into boiling water to make a tea or add a few drops of ginger oil to boiling water and inhale.

But for those who just want a delicious hit of gingery biscuit here’s how to achieve it.

Take 200g softened unsalted butter and cream together with 100g caster sugar until pale. Sift in 260 g plain flour, 40g rice flour, 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ginger, and a pinch of salt. Add 50g glace ginger and bring together to form a dough.

Roll into a sausage shape, about 20cm long, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Slice into about 20 rounds using a large sharp knife and place on two greased baking sheets.

Bake at 170 degrees for about 20 mins until firm but still pale. Sprinkle with caster sugar and allow to cool for 10 minutes before lifting onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Store in an airtight tin and consume within a week – if you can make them last that long.

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