Food & Drink Magazine

Baking a Difference

By Patinoz
Christmas pies

Bite-sized Christmas mince pies

Baking a difference
I’ve just spent a long hard day at the coal face getting some of the Christmas baking done. As I had desperately hoped, I had indeed made a mega-quantity of Christmas mincemeat last year and there was still a jar of the boozy stuff left, full of ginger and craisins as well as the usual suspects. I make bite-sized mince tarts so I now have four dozen of them hidden away for producing as needed.  These days I buy ready-rolled short pastry for the jobs as it makes things easier, particularly if it’s warm in the kitchen – which it was until the aircon went on.

I’d also joined in CSR’s Bake-a-Difference to raise funds for Mission Australia so I had a couple of things to make for that.

The first is an old favourite, spicy candied pecans. I’ve made them numerous times and often been asked for the recipe. These are dead easy to make and you can play around with the ingredients and spice up the nuts to suit your taste.

Spiced pecans

An easy recipe for spicing up pecans - or any other nuts of your choice

Spiced Pecans

3 cups pecan nuts (or walnuts, macadamias or other nuts)
1 egg white
1/4  cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each mixed spice and ground cumin
2 teaspoons curry powder

Spiced pecans

The egg white helps the sugar and spices to adhere to the pecans

Place the pecans in a bowl and pour over the egg white. Turn the nuts over and over to ensure they are all covered in egg white.

Mix together the remaining ingredients and add to the nuts, stirring well to coat.

Place some baking paper in a roasting dish or lipped cookie sheet and bake at 150C for 30-40 minutes, turning the nuts over three or four times during cooking.

Remove from the oven, cool and store in an airtight container.

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My next project was inspired by one of the items passed around at a morning tea for volunteers at the Royal Women’s Hospital last week. I’ve  mentioned previously that I knit and crochet baby garments for their Baby Bundles programme. It was a great opportunity to meet some of the women who carry out voluntary duties at the hospital. One volunteer told me she visits the hospital one afternoon a fortnight to cuddle babies. “The best job in the world,” she said.

Anyway, some of the plates of food included  3-D Christmas trees made of spicy biscuits so I thought I’d make something similar for my Bake-a-Difference blog. Basically these are made of spiced biscuits in graduated sizes, stacked up to form a little Christmas tree.

I used a gingerbread recipe from, tweaking the spices a little.

I picked up a set of star cookie cutters from the Chef’s Hat and a set of writing icing tubes and some cachoux from the supermarket.

Edible Christmas trees

A copse of Christmas trees


Your icing skills will no doubt be a lot better than mine...


125g margarine or butter
90g (½ cup) brown sugar
155g (½ cup) golden syrup or molasses
1 egg yolk
250g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, cream the margarine (or butter) and sugar until smooth. Stir in the golden syrup (or molasses) and egg yolk.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Blend into the margarine mixture until smooth. Cover and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ½ cm thickness. Cut into stars with graduated biscuit cutters – you will need a set of five or six sizes for each tree.  Place biscuits 5 cm apart on ungreased biscuit trays. Make a small hole in the centre of each biscuit with a toothpick

Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes until firm. Remove from trays to cool on wire racks. Ice or decorate when cool.

To assemble, place a toothpick in the centre of the largest star then thread on the other stars, rotating them so the peaks in each biscuit are above the V shape in the previous one.

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And please go over to the Bake a Difference site and make a donation. CSR will double it and that really will make a difference!

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