Tanya Burr’s Crafts Christmas

Tanya Burr: 'I still believe in the magic of Christmas, and being a grown-up has not spoilt that' 
Tanya Burr: ‘I still believe in the magic of Christmas, and being a grown-up has not spoilt that’

Social-media powerhouse Tanya Burr presents some favourite ways to make Christmas magical from her new book. Gorgeous gift and wrap ideas included. It all starts with a girls’ night in… 

BY INVITATION ONLY 

I have amazing friends, and some of them I’ve known since my school days. Over the years, no matter what we are doing or where we are, we have made time for each other. During the first week of December I cook dinner for my old school gang: Kate, Maddie, Emma and Vanessa. We toast the yuletide with prosecco, eat dinner, laugh, gossip and always end up dancing on our chairs! Every year we have a picture taken of us all under the tree and swap secret Santa gifts.

Feeding my friends is at the heart of my love for baking and cooking, and I like to try out new recipes on them. Many of the dishes that I have included in the book have been shared and enjoyed around my dining table. One memorable dinner started with my crowd-pleasing baked camembert (see links below) and was followed by a chicken, leek and mushroom pie (check out the recipe in the book). Pudding is whatever I fancy at the time, but is often something indulgent, such as a trifle (see links below), cheesecake or rich chocolate mousse. Do remember that although you are the host you need to enjoy your evening too, so don’t attempt anything that takes you out of your comfort zone.

There are lots of other ways to entertain your friends without the formality or pressure of a sit-down dinner. It may just be a couple of you who want to get together and make the evening a cooking or crafting session. My friend Scarlett and I love nothing more than a big baking afternoon. It’s a great way to tackle homemade gifts such as batch-cooking trays of cookies, chopping mountains of vegetables for chutney or even just wrapping presents together. Tackling these festive chores is undoubtedly more fun with company and means you achieve more, too. 

Baked camembert 3 ways

The first time I baked a camembert I didn’t realise it had to stay in its box and I popped it in the oven directly on the shelf. My friend Vanessa and I watched through the oven door as melting cheese dripped through the rack. I have never made the same mistake again. Serve the baked cheese with crudités, sliced baguette or ciabatta, breadsticks and crackers, if you like.

EACH BAKED CHEESE SERVES 6-8

CAMEMBERT TOPPED WITH CRANBERRY SAUCE

1 whole camembert, with the wooden box

3 tbsp cranberry sauce, homemade (there’s a recipe in the book) or from a jar

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
  • Remove the camembert from the box and remove any paper or plastic wrapping. Place it back in the bottom half of the box and pierce the top of the cheese several times with a knife, not going all the way through.
  • Spoon the cranberry sauce over top and cover the cheese very loosely with foil. Place the cheese in its box on a baking tray and bake it in the oven for 12 minutes, then remove the foil and pop it back in the oven for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the cranberry sauce is bubbly and hot. Serve hot.
 CAMEMBERT STUDDED WITH ROSEMARY AND GARLIC

1 whole camembert, with the wooden box

2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

leaves stripped from 1 big sprig of rosemary

1 tbsp olive oil

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
  • Remove the camembert from the box and remove any paper or plastic wrapping. Place it back in the bottom half of the box and pierce the top of the cheese several times with a knife, not going all the way through.
  • Carefully wedge some garlic slices and rosemary leaves into each hole on top of the cheese, pressing them in with your fingertips. Drizzle the olive oil over the top. Place the cheese in its box on a baking tray and bake it in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve hot.

CAMEMBERT WRAPPED IN PUFF PASTRY WITH A BOW

1 ready-rolled sheet of puff pastry (320g)

plain flour, for dusting

1 whole camembert

1 egg, beaten

  • Take the sheet of pastry out of the fridge 20 minutes before you start cooking, and preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  • Dust the work surface with flour and lay the sheet of pastry on top. Cut out two circles of pastry that are 2cm larger than the cheese (you can use the lid of the box as a template). Also cut out two long 2cm-wide strips.
  • Remove the camembert from its box and remove any paper or plastic wrapping. Place the cheese on one of the rounds, and tuck the edges of pastry up the sides of the cheese. Place the second circle of pastry on top of the cheese and tuck the top edges down around the sides. Seal and brush with some beaten egg.
  • Wrap one of the long pastry strips around the cheese and seal the edge with some more beaten egg. Make your second strip of pastry into a bow and place it on top. Brush the whole thing with egg and pop it on the lined baking sheet.
  • Pop the pastry-wrapped cheese in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. Serve hot.

 

Red onion chutney

This is a savoury marmalade to accompany the baked camembert or ham, or give as a handmade gift to a dear friend. Store it in jars and it will last throughout the season. Make some pretty labels (see box below) so it looks good on your table or on someone else’s.

MAKES ABOUT 750G (ENOUGH TO FILL 3 X 250G JARS)

75ml olive oil

1.5kg red onions, peeled and finely sliced

150g demerara sugar

50g soft light brown sugar

50g sweet chilli sauce

200ml cider vinegar

50ml balsamic vinegar

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

YOU WILL NEED

sterilised jars, see below

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onions, stir a few times to coat them in the oil, then cover with a lid, turn down the heat to low and leave for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to soften and begin to colour. Add both the sugars and the sweet chilli sauce, turn up the heat to medium, remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes, until most of the moisture has cooked away and the onions are a deep rich brown colour.
  • Take the pan off the heat, and allow to cool for a few minutes then add both the vinegars. Stir and return to the heat for a further 10-15 minutes, until the mixture becomes very sticky and thick.
  • Remove from the heat, season with the salt and pepper, stir, then pour into sterilised jars. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Once opened, keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.

TO STERILISE JARS, either run them through a hot dishwasher cycle and fill them while they’re still hot, or wash them in hot soapy water, rinse and dry for 30 minutes in a low oven (120C/275F/ gas ½). Sterilise lids in a heatproof bowl with boiling water.

 

Florentines

 

I always love a recipe that can be flexible depending on the situation, and these florentines are a good example. Make them as after-dinner petits fours, a teatime treat or bag them up, wrap with a bow and give as a sweet gift. I would be very happy to receive these.

MAKES 24

50g unsalted butter

20g plain flour

150g caster sugar

130ml double cream

50g whole almonds (skin on), roughly chopped

150g flaked almonds

100g chopped candied peel

50g glacé cherries, chopped

300g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), broken into chunks

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ gas 4. Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.
  • Put the butter, flour and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently over a low heat until the butter has melted and combined with the flour and sugar.
  • Slowly pour in the cream, stirring all the time, then add the chopped and flaked almonds, candied peel and chopped cherries. Stir to combine, remove from the heat and leave the mixture to rest for a few minutes.
  • Scoop teaspoonfuls of the mixture on to the lined baking sheet, spacing them about 3cm apart so that they don’t stick together while baking. (To give them proper space, you may have to bake the florentines in several batches; you should have enough mixture for 24 in total).
  • Flatten each one slightly and pop into the oven to bake for 10-14 minutes, or until they are flat and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave them to set and harden on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Flip the cooled Florentines upside down on the wire rack and spoon over the melted chocolate to coat the back of each biscuit. Just before the chocolate hardens, use a fork to make wavy lines in each, then leave them to cool and set. They will keep in a cool place for up to a week so it is best to make them just before if you want to give them as gifts.

Melting snowman cookies

 

Whatever your age, you will appreciate these cute cookies. The biscuits are easy to make and the fun is in the decorating. It’s a brilliant edible crafts project for children to enjoy, too. I am obsessed with marshmallows so these little faces make me very happy.

MAKES 20

FOR THE BISCUITS

110g caster sugar

225g unsalted butter, softened

275g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

 FOR THE ICING

200g icing sugar

3-4 tbsp milk

TO DECORATE

ready-made writing icing in tubes (a few different colours)

20 mini marshmallows

orange jelly slices, or other jellied orange sweet

mini chocolate chips or chocolate-coated puffed rice

 YOU WILL NEED

a 7cm round pastry cutter

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Put the sugar and butter in a bowl and cream together until thick and pale. Stir in the flour until everything is mixed together.
  • Dust the work surface with flour. Tip the mixture out on to the surface and work it into a disc with your hands, gathering in the crumbly bits as you go and working them into a dough. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm then cut out 20 circles with the 7cm cutter, re-rolling scraps of dough as necessary and arranging them on the lined baking sheets as you go.
  • Bake the cookies in the oven for 13-15 minutes or until they are golden brown. Leave on the tray to firm up for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  • While waiting for the cookies to cool, decorate your snowmen’s faces by using writing icing in tubes to draw eyes and a mouth on individual marshmallows. Use orange jelly slices cut into tiny wedges for a carrot nose. Allow the decorated faces to set.
  • Make the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and stirring in the milk little by little until you have a thick, smooth icing. If it looks too runny, add a little more icing sugar to thicken it up. You don’t want it to pour off the edges of your cookie.
  • When the cookies are completely cool, spoon a little white icing on to each one – it’s meant to look like a puddle, so don’t worry about being too neat. While the icing is still soft, place a marshmallow head in place.
  • Place chocolate chips or chocolate-coated puffed rice on the icing as coal buttons; do this while the icing is runny. Leave the icing to set for about 10 minutes.
  • Once the white icing has set, use the writing icing to draw on stick arms and a colourful scarf.

S’Mores

 

For me, there is nothing finer or more Christmassy than being with friends, toasting marshmallows and sandwiching them between biscuits with squares of chocolate. These bring back memories of my first home with my husband Jim, where we had an open fire. On cold wintry afternoons we would make s’mores as a treat. Now we live in London and make these over the fire pit. You can even grill them!

Tanya and friends tuck into s'mores
Tanya and friends tuck into s’mores

MAKES 10

20 biscuits made using the Melting Snowman Cookies recipe here, baked in festive shapes if you like, or digestive biscuits, if you prefer

10 squares milk or dark chocolate

10 large marshmallows

YOU WILL NEED

some fireproof skewers

  • Lay half your biscuits out on a plate or tray and top each one with a piece of chocolate.
  • Spear a marshmallow on to a metal skewer and hold it over an open flame. Keep turning until the marshmallow softens and begins to brown. Use a fork to slide the marshmallow off the skewer on to the chocolate-topped biscuit and sandwich with a second biscuit. Devour immediately! Repeat with the remaining marshmallows.
  • If you’ve not got an open flame or fire, you can make these under a medium-high grill by topping a biscuit with a piece of chocolate, then the marshmallow and popping the stack under the preheated grill for 4-5 minutes, or until the marshmallow begins to brown and melt.
  • Be sure to keep your eye on them because marshmallows burn very easily. Remove from the grill and top with a second biscuit.

Dog biscuits

 Over to Tanya's expert recipe tester Martha Moo, in protective headgear for the occasion...
Over to Tanya’s expert recipe tester Martha Moo, in protective headgear for the occasion…

As I was testing recipes for this book I knew I couldn’t leave out my Martha Moo. I love doing special things for her and I know she appreciates a gift, too. These make the cutest present for any canine friends you want to spoil.

MAKES ABOUT 60, DEPENDING ON YOUR CUTTER SIZE

2 reduced-salt beef stock cubes

340g wholewheat flour, plus extra for dusting

80g skimmed dried milk powder

1 large egg, beaten

125ml vegetable oil

YOU WILL NEED

a bone-shaped cookie cutter

  • Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/ gas 2. Line 2 or 3 baking trays with baking parchment.
  • Put the beef stock cubes in a heatproof jug or bowl and add 150ml boiling water. Stir until the stock cubes have dissolved and allow to cool.
  • Combine the flour, milk powder, egg and oil in a bowl, then pour in the cooled beef stock. Mix to form a rough dough.
  • Dust the work surface with flour. Knead the dough on the work surface for 1-2 minutes until it comes together to form a smooth dough, then dust the surface again and roll it out to a thickness of about 1cm. Cut out about 60 biscuits with the cookie cutter, re-rolling the dough as necessary and arranging them on the lined baking trays as you go.
  • Bake the dog biscuits in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before giving them to your favourite pooch. Keep them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Luxury hazelnut hot chocolate

 

How do you like yours? In your favourite mug with a swirl of chocolate spread or a dollop of cream? With a scattering of marshmallows or a dash of Irish cream liqueur? At party time, set up a hot chocolate station with toppings already prepared for everyone to customise their own.

MAKES 1 BIG MUGFUL

300ml milk

2 tbsp hazelnut chocolate spread

1 tbsp cocoa powder

squirty cream

TO DECORATE

a Flake, chopped nuts and marshmallows, to serve (optional)

  • Gently heat the milk in a small saucepan. As it warms up, whisk in the hazelnut chocolate spread and cocoa powder until smooth. Once the milk is hot and just beginning to bubble round the edges, remove from the heat and pour into your favourite mug. Top with squirty cream, a Flake, some chopped nuts and marshmallows, if you like.

Mulled wine, poached pear and ginger trifle

 

This is a pudding that works any time of year but really comes into its own at Christmas. It most definitely has the wow factor at any gathering and works as a great alternative to Christmas pud. Divine.

SERVES 10-12

FOR THE PEARS

750ml red wine (1 bottle)

125g caster sugar

3 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 bay leaf

3 clementines, sliced into rounds (skin on)

6-8 conference pears (not too ripe)

FOR THE TRIFLE

250ml double cream

300g ginger loaf cake, cut into 2cm chunks

750ml ready-made fresh vanilla custard

125g amaretti biscuits, crushed

100g toasted flaked almonds

50g crystallised ginger, chopped

YOU WILL NEED

a 2-litre dish (preferably glass, with high sides)

  • Start by poaching the pears. Pour the wine into a saucepan and add 600ml water. Add the sugar, spices, bay leaf and sliced clementines and bring to a simmer over a low-medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Leave on a very low heat for about 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Meanwhile, peel the pears but leave them whole (stem intact).
  • Turn up the heat to medium and add the whole pears. Bring to a gentle simmer and poach for 35-40 minutes, until they are deep red and just tender. Carefully remove each one from the liquid and set aside to cool. Return the liquid to the heat, remove the spices, bay leaf and clementine slices and boil for 15-20 minutes to reduce by half its volume and create a syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely before assembling the trifle.
  • To layer the trifle, cut the cooled pears in half lengthways and use a teaspoon to carefully remove the core. Trim away the woody stem. Whip the cream in a bowl until it holds soft peaks.
  • Arrange the ginger cake chunks over the base of your trifle dish. Spoon half the poaching syrup over the cake, then place the pears around the edges of the dish, with the cut sides facing outwards. Pour in the custard, then sprinkle over the crushed amaretti biscuits. Spoon over the whipped cream and chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Drizzle with the remaining poaching syrup and top with flaked almonds and crystallised ginger, then serve.

SAVE 20 PER CENT ON TANYA’S CHRISTMAS

Tanya’s Christmas by Tanya Burr is published by Blink, price £16.99.

Beautifully illustrated and packed with festive know-how, it covers everything you need to make the most of Christmas and New Year, including finding the perfect gift, making decorations, hosting a memorable party, cooking Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and baking indulgent festive treats. There are more than 50 recipes and easy craft projects, plus hair and make-up tips, too.

To order a copy for £13.59 (a 20 per cent discount) until 26 November, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.

Recipes © Tanya Burr 2017. Food photographs © David Munns 2017. Portrait photograph © Dan Kennedy 2017