In my book, A Dancer’s Dream, one of Stana’s favourite Christmas traditions is eating gingerbread angels, and drinking tea with jam. If you’d like to have a go at recreating this treat – for yourself, or to share with family and friends – here’s how:
This recipe is based on Felicity Cloake’s gingerbread biscuit recipe, which is a big favourite in our house. If you don’t have an angel shaped biscuit-cutter, you could make snowflakes, stars, Christmas trees or any other festive shapes.
- Put 225g softened unsalted butter in a bowl, and beat with a wooden spoon
- Add 340g of soft brown sugar and beat again
- Add one beaten egg to the mixture. Continue to beat gently (don’t worry if it begins to curdle – just add in a little plain flour)
- Mix 340g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 tsp ground ginger and 2 tsp mixed spice in a separate bowl, and then add to the butter, sugar and egg mixture
- Stir until the mixture comes together in a smooth dough
- Spread out some clingfilm on your work surface, and put the gingerbread dough on top. Cover it with another piece of clingfilm, then roll flat with a rolling pin until the dough is about 3mm thick
- Transfer your dough onto a chopping board and pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes
- Heat your oven to 190 C and lightly grease your baking sheet(s)
- Take out the dough, remove the top layer of clingfilm and use an angel-shaped biscuit cutter to cut out your biscuits
- Arrange your biscuits carefully on the baking sheet, remembering to leave space between them, as they will spread when they are in the oven
- Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool
I like to eat my gingerbread angels just as they are, but you can also decorate them with white icing if you prefer.
Russian tea with jam
To accompany your gingerbread angels, try this traditional Russian way of drinking tea. You can use any loose-leaf black tea you like, but I like this Russian Caravan blend from my local tea/coffee producers Atkinsons.
- Boil some water in your kettle. Put a small amount of hot water into the bottom of your teapot to warm it, then discard.
- Put some loose tea-leaves into the teapot – use 1 heaped teaspoon per cup, plus an extra spoonful ‘for the pot’.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of berry jam to the pot – try strawberry, cherry, raspberry or blackcurrant.
- Leave the tea to brew for around 5 minutes, allowing the flavours to develop
- Using a tea-strainer, pour the tea into your cups. You can serve some jam in a little dish alongside your tea in case anyone would like to add another spoonful to their cup.
Drink and enjoy with a gingerbread angel on the side – perhaps while listening to the music of Tchiakovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’, or leafing through your copy of A Dancer’s Dream?
(The picture below is from my own trip to St Petersburg a couple of years ago, when I was researching Spies in St Petersburg. Many Russian treats were sampled as part of the research process!)
To celebrate The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow‘s publication on 4 June, we headed to Harrods this week, for a lovely afternoon tea at the Georgian Restaurant.
It really was the perfect place to celebrate the book – from the piano music to the silver teapots, we could almost have been in the restaurant of Sinclair’s Department Store itself!
The tea was perfect – dainty finger sandwiches, delicious cakes, perfect scones, rose petal jam and even a trifle in a jam jar to finish with.
Afternoon tea features heavily in Book 2, the sequel to Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, which I’ve been busy writing recently – what better way to do research for a book than tucking into these delights?
Here’s me and my lovely publicist Maggie, who organised the afternoon tea (and is kind of hiding behind the giant cake stand!)
Thanks Maggie and Egmont for a truly delightful Clockwork Sparrow celebration!
To celebrate the book contract, my lovely publishers Egmont took me for a delicious afternoon tea at The Wolseley on Piccadilly. The grand Edwardian-style surroundings couldn’t have been a more perfect environment to celebrate The Clockwork Sparrow.
The above picture of me signing on the dotted line comes courtesy of my agent Louise: not pictured, the immense quantity of cakes we had devoured immediately beforehand.
No trip to Scotland would be complete without a day trip to Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities.
Though I missed out on the festival this year, there was still plenty to do and see – and having made a resolution to take more photos I can include here on the blog, I thought it would be fun to document our day out with the camera. As you’ll see I’ve had mixed success, but I’m getting better!
We started out with coffee and delicious cinnamon buns at Peter’s Yard, a Scandinavian-style cafe near the university area of the city, which is great for people-watching and also happens to sell the best crispbread ever.
The next stop was the recently refurbished National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. Including everything from science to nature, world cultures to Scottish history, this incredibly comphrehensive museum is a great place to explore, and really does have something for everyone – from elephants and flying fish to maps of the stars! Recently we were also lucky enough to be treated to a tasty afternoon tea up in the top floor restaurant, which has beautiful views of Edinburgh’s spires and rooftops.
Whenever I come to Edinburgh, I always enjoy visiting the Fruitmarket, a small but beautifully-formed contemporary art gallery with a great exhibitions programme and a tiny cafe.
On this visit, we spent ages browsing in the lovely bookshop, which has a great selection of contemporary art and art theory books, as well as such delights as Gemma Correll greetings cards, zines by local artists, polaroid cameras, picture books and Tunnock’s teacake badges, before taking a look at their current exhibition – a solo exhibition of work by Ingrid Calame, which had been part of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival.
Across the road we took a peep at one of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival commissions – Martin Creed’s Work No. 1059 which has transformed the Scotsman’s Steps. (I didn’t take any pictures of this one for some reason, but you can see some images here).
As evening approached, we thought about going to one of our favourite Edinburgh bars, Ecco Vino on Cockburn Street, but instead ended up going to see a film before ending the day with a meal at Seadogs, a new discovery.
This laid-back restaurant on Rose Street specialises in (you guessed it) fish and seafood, and also has several sister venues close by – the original Dogs restaurant serving up hearty gastropub fare, Dogs Amore (Italian food) and Underdogs (a basement bar). I ate moule frites followed by this rather epic (if badly photographed) syrup sponge pudding to share. What better end to a delightful Edinburgh day?
The map at the top of this post is a detail from artist J. Maizlish’s beautiful map, Sites of the Edinburgh Art Festival 2011, which was also one of this year’s festival commissions. You can download a copy of the map here, or see the original in Edinburgh at the Ingleby Gallery
My still-unwritten dissertation is stalking me… I won’t be able to avoid it for much longer, but in a last-ditch procrastination effort, I’m drinking coffee and looking at these beautiful breakfast pictures from the Bowhaus flickr photostream (via daydream lily and lovelorn unicorn) – the perfect viewing ‘fodder’ (arf arf) for a Sunday morning:
Pink goop on toast and Coco Pops with strawberries is most definitely where it’s at.
[all photos from the Bowhaus flickr photostream]