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Jane’s 12 Days of Decorating Biscuits

Use your imagination to decorate these lovely, crisp biscuits. Once dried, they will last for at least two to three weeks, making them ideal Christmas gifts.

Makes: about 24

Hands-on time: 2 hours

Baking time: 45 minutes

Skill level: Needs skill

For the biscuits:

350g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground mixed spice

½ tsp ground cloves

120g salted butter

175g light muscovado sugar

1 large egg, beaten

2 tbsp golden syrup

For the royal icing:

4 egg whites

1kg icing sugar

½ tsp almond extract

To decorate:

food-colouring gels, as required

edible lustre and glitter powder

You will need:

12 differently shaped Christmas cutters

3 baking trays lined with baking paper

Small piping bags fitted with No.1 nozzles – one bag for each colour

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/Gas 5. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices. Place the dry mixture in a food processor with the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and pulse to combine.

Step 2 – Add the egg and syrup and work until the mixture begins to come together in a smooth dough. Turn out the dough onto a very lightly floured surface, knead lightly, then roll out to about 3mm thick. Cut out as many biscuits as you can, re-rolling the trimmings until you have used up all the dough. Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets.

Step 3 – Bake the cookies in batches for 12–15 minutes, depending on size, until they are just a little darker around the edges. Leave them to cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Reduce the oven to 70°C/50°C fan/Gas ¼.

Step 4 – Meanwhile, make the royal icing. Lightly whisk the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, then gradually add the icing sugar until you have a thick piping consistency.   Add the almond extract and stir well.

Step 5 – Divide the icing into bowls and add food colouring to each bowl as desired. Keep the bowls of icing covered while you aren’t using them to prevent the icing drying out on the surface.

Step 6 – To decorate the biscuits, first pipe the outline of your designs using icing in the appropriate colours piped from a small piping bag fitted with a No.1 nozzle.

Step 7 – Once you have the design outline, flood the biscuits. Mix each relevant colour with a little water until you reach a flooding consistency, then transfer the icing to individual piping bags and pipe inside the outline, using a cocktail stick to help ease the icing into any tricky areas, and to pop any little air bubbles. Let one colour dry for 10 minutes, before flooding the next.

Step 8 – Place the flooded biscuits to dry in the warm oven for 15 minutes before piping on any detailing. Once you’ve added the detail, return the cookies to the oven to dry out for a further 10 minutes, then brush on glitter and lustre dust to add that extra bling.