Mark Hix on Christmas baking

Why is it that cooking is off the curriculum at most schools? As a boy, I only did one year of cookery at school and that’s because I had a choice between metalwork and domestic science. But at least I got the opportunity.

Getting children involved at home is something we can do, and a good start is to make sweet things they’ll enjoy eating. Apart from giving them an insight into how cakes and biscuits are made, it may also stop them eating some of the rubbish they crave.

As Christmas nears, why not get the children baking things that they can wrap up and give to grandparents, or even hang on the Christmas tree as edible decorations? Actually, I’m not sure how long they’ll last on the tree, so you’d better make a few extra as a back-up.

Christmas spice biscuits

Makes about 40

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These are rather like the Easter biscuits that I remember as a child, and are really handy to have in your biscuit tin over the Christmas period. You can vary the spice to suit and also add some dried fruits, if you wish.


360g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp ground ginger
2tsp cinnamon
120g unsalted butter, softened
180g light Muscovado sugar
1 egg (at room temperature), beaten
4tbsp golden syrup

For the icing

2 egg whites
300g-400g icing sugar
¼tsp red food colouring
Silver balls to decorate


Preheat the oven to 175˚C/gas mark 4. Sift the plain flour onto a sheet of greaseproof paper with the bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with a wooden spoon for 4-5 minutes until fluffy. Slowly add the egg until well mixed, then add the golden syrup. Fold in the flour mixture, and mix to a smooth dough.

Dust the work surface and your rolling pin with flour. Roll out the mixture to about 1cm thickness and cut out using a 4cm round cutter. Keep putting the off-cuts back into a ball to re-roll so you get more biscuits out of it (sprinkle it with water if it dries out).

Bake the biscuits in the oven for 8-10 minutes. While they are still soft, make a hole near the edge of the biscuits with a skewer to allow you to thread a ribbon through them, then leave to cool.
Now make the icing: mix the egg whites with enough icing sugar to make a firm but pipeable paste.

Divide the mixture in two, then stir in the red colouring. Spoon the icing into two separate piping bags, and decorate the biscuits with any patterns that take your fancy. Allow to dry before threading with ribbon and hanging on the tree.