Easter Tree

What is better than Spring? Seeing the magnolia blossoming, tulips, crisp new shoots on otherwise bare branches….So delicate, so green – so life assuring. Really love this time of year.

Have spent the day outside and managed to get some gardening done (with three little helpers). Cutting our hedge was first priority and we got some fantastic branches that inspired….Instead of ending up at the tip in the green waste container they now are bringing joy to our family in the shape of an Easter Tree!

The single best thing about this picture is her pride. Priceless. 

  • About now, cut your branches and place them in a vase with water. This will give the buds time to open and be beautiful by Easter Sunday.
  • Prepare yourself and your surroundings for a bit of mess… 🙂
  • Get your raw eggs ready, as well as a large bowl and a sharp needle
  • Prick a hole in both the top and bottom of the egg with the needle
  • Holding the egg over the bowl, blow into one hole and watch the egg come out of the other! If you have never tried this before it may disgust you! It definitely is a strange experience! Children laugh every year…husband refuses! 🙂
  • Save the blown out egg – omelette for breakfast? Make a cake for Easter lunch?
  • When all the eggs are done wash them out with some hot soapy water to ensure there is no left over egg inside. Pat dry.
  • Get lots of paint brushes and paint and let the children enjoy decorating the eggs.
  • Once completely decorated place them in an empty egg tray to dry overnight.
  • Thread a needle with two strands of thread and pull it through the dried, decorated egg the next day – ensure you have put either a small piece of toothpick or something at the end of the string in order that the string stays in the egg when you pull the needle through. Tie the two strands together and hang your egg on the tree.

Don’t worry if an egg breaks – makes a cute “nest”…. This one will be stuffed with cotton wool and have a wide ribbon wrapped around it….

Cookie Christmas Tree

Have I mentioned how much I love baking? Probably a thousand times…I just do though. It is a great way to spend time together, the house smells wonderful afterwards and especially at Christmas time there is something slightly magical about it. Maybe the shapes…stars, trees, snow flakes…love, love love it!

Anyway, enough of my blabber, yesterday’s advent “togetherness” activity in our house was making a Cookie Christmas Tree. By the time we had gotten back from school, made the dough, left it to chill for a bit (while we watched a short episode of a daily Advent Calendar series from Denmark – thank you Katrine for highlighting and reminding me!) and baked them it was too late to decorate! We therefore did the decorating this morning and ate it as part of pudding with friends for lunch! Was great!

The dough is quick and simple, has few ingredients, and can be used to make any shape you like. I have used it for years, not sure where I got it from, but the idea for the Christmas Cookie Tree came from a picture I saw in a Sainsburys catalogue a few weeks ago.

450g plain flour
225g butter – softened
225g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
Icing sugar, silver balls, edible glitter and food colouring to decorate
  • Put flour and butter in a bowl and chop into it until the mixture resembles big breadcrumbs (bit of a strange description but not sure how else to explain!)

As you can see it is a very serious exercise that requires not only deep concentration but preferably an army apron as well as penguin chefs hat?! 

  • Add the caster sugar and keep cutting into it to combine

  • Crack the egg into the mixture, as well as adding the vanilla essence – this is when the dough will start to come together

  • Your hands now need (quite a nice necessity actually!) to go into the dough in order that the warmth from them make the butter soften. The floury mixture quickly becomes a smooth dough ball….so so tempting to eat! It will, one day, be added to ice cream I think…hmmm. The children loved this bit…

  • Once combined, and tasted (!), wrap in cling film and put in the fridge. Leave it there for about half an hour to chill – this will make it easier to roll out and use. Less sticking to the work surface!

  • Once chilled, preheat oven to 190C and then use different sized star cookie cutters to cut out as many star shapes as you can. We ended up with 8 big, 8 medium, 8 small and 6 tiny ones… It is important you have different sizes or it will not end up looking like a tree when you layer the cookies…

  • Place cookies in the pre heated oven for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. If you leave them longer they will be slightly darker and more crisp – which you may prefer – up to you!
  • Let cool on wire racks and once completely cool you can make the Christmas Tree.
  • Mix icing sugar with a bit of water and food colouring of your choice. We used green for the main tree stars and yellow for the tiny ones we put on top.
  • Using wooden sticks as tools, let your children colour the stars. Once iced, layer them starting with the biggest stars and working your way to the smaller ones as you ascend the tree. Also lay them so that they are slightly off centre – see picture – all the way to the top.

  • Once done – dust with icing sugar and decorate….
  • Use as centre piece on the table or just eat! We did both!

Christmas Feeling is definitely growing here….every day getting a bit closer…are you feeling it?

Bat Biscuits

These biscuits can be used at any time of the year to be honest! Simply shape and decorate according to season. Easy and sweet….what more could you want!?

100g sugar
100 butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
225g flour
  • Pre heat oven to 190C
  • Mix butter and sugar together until creamy
  • Add egg and vanilla essence and stir well
  • When smooth, add the flour slowly until a soft dough is formed
  • Leave to harden slightly  in fridge for 20-30 minutes
  • Dust work surface and roll dough out to about 5mm thickness
  • Cut the dough into the shapes you want – bats, ghosts….(Christmas Tree, Star, Easter Bunny)
  • Place on baking parchment on a tray and into the oven
  • Bake for about 10 minutes – will depend on your oven – keep an eye on them! When finished they will be slightly brown around the edges.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before decorating with icing