When we are hosting a Christmas party, we all want to make sure our guests have the best and most memorable experience possible, so with that in mind we have put together a few last minute enhancements to make your festive party unique.
No doubt the tree is up, the fairy lights are twinkling and the baubles are glistening; so how about making some edible Christmas tree decorations? We usually make a double batch so half can be hung on the tree for the children, and the other half can be served to your guests. It’s a lovely idea to involve the children with this – it could be a festive tradition.
Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 3/ 170C or 150C if you have a fan oven. You can start with sifting 400 grams of plain flour and a teaspoon of baking powder, then add a teaspoon each of mixed spice, cinnamon and ground ginger – whatever you have in the cupboard really. Then stir in100 grams of sugar – demerera works well but muscovado tastes the best. If you have any dried fruit (the children love the candied peel best), you can add some finely chopped pieces for flavour and texture. It’s time to add 200 grams of soft butter (not straight from the ‘fridge!) and make a dough. Then add 100 grams of either black treacle or some golden syrup (the treacle tastes richer) by making a well in the middle and pouring in, and blending until smooth. To save time you can use a kitchen mixer.
Lay out some baking parchment and using a rolling pin or bottle, roll out the dough until 5mm thick. Roll-up the dough with the baking parchment, like when you buy ready-rolled pastry, and place in the ‘fridge for half an hour. While you are waiting, you can make some icing to pipe by preparing 500 grams of sifted icing sugar, and then slowly fold in three free-range whisked egg whites, a good shake of lemon juice and a teaspoon of glycerine, if you have it, to make it glossy.
Once the dough has firmed-up, unroll the parchment and with a pastry cutter cut out some stars, Christmas trees, or whatever you fancy, leaving a gap between them as they will expand slightly when baking. If you’re really creative, you can cut them out freestyle. Using a cocktail stick, make a hole in each one, not too close to the edge. Bake them in the oven for 12 minutes – but check them after 10 minutes as you don’t want the edges to burn. The kitchen and house will smell amazing!
Before they cool, remember to poke through the holes again with a cocktail stick as they may have started to close as they baked. Divide some of the icing up into cups and mix in some food colouring, if you have any. Now it’s time to get creative; for biscuits used as gifts or as festive snacks, I normally pipe on names, or a fun message. One year we made dominoes. The children love doing a Jackson Pollock, which looks amazing once the different colours of icing have set. If we’ve run out of ribbon, we use cotton to thread them and hang them on the tree, the banisters or from festive greenery, even in the table centrepiece or from a Christmas chandelier.
With so many different dishes devoured over Christmas, not to mention the wine glasses, cocktails and mulled wine taking up so much space, the table can get incredibly full, so we recommend having almost a permanent table centrepiece set-up from the start of the festive season. We usually dress ours on Christmas Eve before Midnight Mass and it will stay like it until the day after Boxing Day, or longer if there are many visits and party nights. If you don’t have any oasis, we recommend filling a shallow dish with soil and then inserting matching greenery you are using elsewhere in the house, including Christmas tree trimmings, mistletoe, pine cones, holly and poinsettia leaves. Anything goes, really. Material can even be gleaned from a winter walk. For the children we use LED candles, else a bowl of water with some floating candles look amazing. You can always colour the water to suit your theme. Painting walnuts silver or gold to complement your theme also look festive.
If you have a lot of long greenery like ivy, mistletoe, evergreen shrubbery, or soft Christmas tree branches, these can be tied and dressed with ribbon into a wreath. This could be suspended from the ceiling above the table like a Christmas chandelier, or hung from an inside window. Both have the wow factor, especially if adorned with a string of battery powered mini fairy lights.
Personalised place settings also look fab – maybe you could use some of the edible Christmas decoration mixture to make some, iced with their names, or icing some mince pies? If you’ve got any leftover icing sugar, it’s a fun idea to place a pair of clean Wellington boots close to the fireplace, facing into the room, and with a sieve dust the outside of the boots, so that when they are removed, an outline of the boots remain. Looks like Santa left some footprints!