1. Christmas Brownies
Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm brownie tin. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Put the butter and both types of chocolate in a heat proof bowl and either melt in the microwave (in 30 second bursts, stirring after each) or set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring every now and then until the chocolate has melted.
Leave the chocolate and butter mixture to cool a little while you whisk the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl using electric beaters. Once the mixture is pale, fluffy and looks like it’s roughly doubled in volume, whisk in the melted chocolate. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and mixed spice until no pockets of flour remain then pour into your prepared tin. Level the top with a spatula and bake for 20-25 mins. The top should look set and shiny but should be a little wobbly if you gently jostle the tin.
Leave the brownie to cool completely in the tin then chill in the fridge until set. While the brownie cools brush the rosemary sprigs and glacé cherries with egg white, dab off the excess with kitchen paper then dredge in caster sugar until well coated. Leave to dry on a wire rack. Put the chocolate truffles onto a sheet of baking paper or foil then spray with the edible gold lustre.
Dust the chilled brownie with icing sugar to create a snowy surface and top with amaretti biscuit pieces then poke the crystalised rosemary sprigs into the surface at random intervals (cut the brownie into pieces and dust on icing sugar first, if you like). Nestle a glacé cherry or gold truffle alongside the rosemary sprig then add the buttons and silver balls.
2. Mince Pies (OF COURSE!)
1. Lightly butter a 12-case patty tin. Tip the mincemeat into a bowl and stir so that the liquid is evenly distributed.
2. Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor and process briefly until resembling breadcrumbs, then slowly add the egg through the feeder tube (or rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand and stir in the egg).
3. Bring the mixture together with your hands, wrap in cling film and chill for an hour. Thinly roll out the pastry onto a floured surface. Cut out 12 circles with a fluted pastry cutter, large enough to fill the cases in the patty tin. Press gently into each case, then fill evenly with the mincemeat.
4. Cut out another 12 slightly smaller circles and use to cover the mincemeat. Press the edges together with the end of a fork to seal. Make a small slit in the top of each, then brush lightly with milk. Chill for about 30 minutes.
5. While chilling, preheat the oven to 200 C / Gas Mark 6. Bake the pies for 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm. Enjoy!
3. Biscuit Buttons
1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on high, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer to medium, and beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer to low, and beat in flour and salt until soft dough forms. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces and pat each into a disk. Wrap each disk tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of well-floured parchment to 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer to a baking pan, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate, 30 to 60 minutes.
3. Remove and unwrap 2 dough disks. Use a well-floured 3-inch round cutter to cut out 12 cookies. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking pan, spacing cookies about 1 inch apart. To make each resemble a button: Using the blunt side of a 2 3/4-inch round cutter, indent a circle on the cookie's surface. Then, using a straw, poke 2 holes near the center of each cookie. Repeat with 2 remaining dough disks.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Meanwhile, refrigerate pans with cookies until chilled, about 15 minutes. Bake until cookies are golden around edges and firm, about 5 minutes. (If necessary, use a skewer to reopen buttonholes.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
5. To package, string a ribbon through a stack of 6 button cookies and tie before placing in box. Repeat with remaining cookies to fill 3 more boxes.
4. Gingerbread House
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3.Cut out the following paper patterns for the gingerbread house template:
Two rectangles, 3 by 5 inches, to make the front and back of the house. Two rectangles, 3 by 5 1/2 inches for the roof. Two pieces for the ends of the house, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom. Four smaller rectangles, 1 1/2 by 1 inch for the roof and sides of the entryway. And one piece, 2 inches wide at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom for the front of the entryway.
4. Roll gingerbread dough out to edges on a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place paper patterns onto the rolled out dough. With a sharp, straight edged knife, cut around each of the pieces, but leave pieces in place.
5. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until dough feels firm.
6. Place patterns on top of the gingerbread again and trim shapes, cutting edges with a straight-edged sharp knife. Leave to cool on baking sheet.
7. Place royal icing into pastry bag with a writing tip and press out to decorate individual parts of house, piping on decorations, windows, door, etc., as desired. Let dry until hardened.
8. Glue sides, front and back of house together at corners using royal icing. Place an object against the pieces to prop up until icing is dry (it only takes a few minutes).
9. Glue the two roof pieces to the pitched roofline of the house. Then, similarly, glue the sides and roof of the entryway together with icing. Attach the entryway to the front of the house.
10. Continue decorating the house, glueing on gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired.
Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric hand mixer, until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag with a writing tip. Add more lemon juice, if necessary.