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Christmas Cookie Bars

These cookie bars are a Christmas staple in our house and have been for years. The cinnamon makes the house smell all festive and you know it’s not long until the big day!

My mum and I would make them but instead of cutting the tray bake in to bars we would use biscuits cutters to cut out Christmas shapes to make them even more festive and so we could give them as gifts (it was totally not so we could sit on the sofa watching Christmas TV and scoffing a bowl of all the offcuts of cookie left behind by cutting out shapes)

This year I’ve made them with my toddler and we’ve adapted the recipe to be vegan and it’s also soya and nut free. Her opinion on them was that they were “yum yum”.

So here’s what you need:

Ingredients

  • 270g vegan baking spread
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 160g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp egg replacer and 4tbsp water ( you could make 2 flax ‘eggs’ if you prefer
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 380g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 110g rolled oats
  • 220g raisins

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
  2. Put the butter and both sugars in a bowl and cream together.
  3. Add the egg replacer mix, mixing well.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and oats to a separate bowl, and mix well.
  6. Then combine the dry mix with the butter mixture and beat until well mixed.
  7. Stir in the raisins until evenly distributed.
  8. Put the mix in a traybake tin, if it’s too thick and sticky thin with a little milk first (we use oat) .
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. It will depend on the size of tin you used as to how thick your bake is, so check regularly to make sure it’s not burning.
  10. Once they are cooled you can take them out the tin as they are easier to cut in to bars when cool. (Or you can cut in to Christmas shapes to give them as gifts and then so you don’t waste anything eat the leftover bits like we did!)

Notes: You can do steps 2-6 altogether if using a food mixer as the ‘all in one method’ just don’t use a mixer for the raisins as we want to keep them whole so you get large juicy raisins in the bars.

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How to: Salt dough Decorations

One of the favourite craft projects in our house is homemade salt dough! My daughter loves making salt dough ornaments, and I love that I always have the supplies on hand to mix up this salt dough recipe.

This Christmas we’ve spent a day making salt dough ornaments for our tree. It’s a wonderful family activity that ends with us having beautiful ornaments that will last for decades!

Recipe

The recipe for these ornaments doesn’t get any easier. You need exactly three ingredients:

  • Plain/ All-purpose flour (4 cups)—I recommend sticking with all-purpose flour here because it’s affordable, it’s easy to work with, and it creates the most consistent color.
  • Table salt (1 cup)—Again, make sure to add the salt to preserve these ornaments! Just go with the generic brand table salt here.
  • Warm water (1 1/2 cups)—The warm water helps the dough come together a little bit easier. Plus, you’ll knead the dough with your hands, and warm dough is so much more comfortable to knead in the winter!

Chances are, you’ll have all the items you need to make these ornaments already in your house. Here’s a general list of what we used to make our ornaments:

  • Mixing bowl and large spoon
  • Parchment paper/silicone baking mat
  • Rolling pin
  • Biscuit cutter
  • Toothpick, straw or skewer—for poking a hole for the ornaments to hang from
  • Baking tray
  • Craft glue to make a varnish for the ornaments
  • Paints and paintbrushes
  • Ribbon/twine/wire for hanging the ornaments
  1. In your large mixing bowl, place the flour and salt. Stir until well combined. Then, slowly pour in the warm water while stirring. Keep stirring until you’ve added all the water.
  2. You’ll get to a point where it is too hard to stir with a spoon. Put it down and use your hands to mix it well, like you would any other dough.
  3. Once the dough starts to come together, keep kneading with your hands for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable.

Now that your salt dough is made, you can use it just like you would modelling clay to make sculptures, or you can roll it and cut it out to make ornaments or salt dough handprints. This time we made Christmas ornaments:

If you’ve ever rolled and cut out sugar biscuit, you’ll be an expert at doing with the salt dough! (This is my daughters favourite part) Here’s the process:

  1. Sprinkle a little flour on your parchment paper or silicone baking mat and roll out the dough until 2-4mm thick. You want to err on the side of a thinner dough because if it is too thick, the ornaments tend to split or break easily because of air pockets that get trapped in the middle.
  2. Then cut out your shapes using cookie cutters, and put on your silicone baking sheet or you baking tray lined with parchment.
  3. Take a skewer, toothpick, stainless steel straw, or any other pointy/pokey object, and poke a hole in the top of each ornament for a ribbon to hang from.

Bake the ornaments in a 120°C oven for 1-2 hours depending on the siege and thickness of your decorations. This isn’t an exact science, because inevitably, your shapes won’t be 100% even in thickness. They are done when they feel hard. They are really done if they start to brown (don’t worry if they do go a bit brown, you can just paint over the brown bits!). Let the ornaments cool completely before decorating.

I used acrylic paints and gave my daughter her regular paints and brushes. I stuck with the colour scheme of the room the tree is in, and my daughter used the toddler method of all the colours at once – but it’s really up to you to get creative on how you want to decorate.

Once all your decorating is dry, you need to seal these ornaments so they last a good, long while. While the salt does an excellent job of preserving the salt dough itself, sealing the ornaments will help keep all the decorations you just lovingly decorated looking great for years to come.

Make the “varnish” with one part glue to two parts water. I just do one coat on each side and let it dry completely in between. We used our cake cooling racks for this.

String up the ornaments using pretty ribbon or twine, and then put those beautiful new ornaments on your Christmas tree! These could also be used to make wonderful, thoughtful gifts

Our tree this year with its lovely new salt dough ornaments