November has arrived with all her flowers and sunshine and birthday celebration! It's still sinking in that my youngest baby is now a five year old. He is such a jolly, passionate, theatrical and tender fellow. He requested a white chocolate cake with whipped cream and French-style coffee buttercream icing and a sloth on the top.
Meanwhile the garden is bursting with colour, leaf and bloom - white foxgloves with little speckles of deep purple, yellow irises, red valerian, white daisies, roses and lavender beckoning all the bees. I recently acquired some beautiful Liberty of London fabric - cotton lawn sprigged liberally with flowers - it will be like wearing my November garden around on my chest //
This week we celebrated Beren's sixth birthday. A fellow April, autumn baby, he is full of wonder for creatures big and small, adventure stories, board games, jumping on the trampoline, space and lego. He is learning to read and do sums in his head, scrub the dishes and write words, not to mention loosing those baby teeth left, right and centre! He is passionate and tender, quick to make friends wherever we go, giver of big cuddles and asker of curious questions // It was extra special to celebrate his birthday dinner with two sets of grandparents present as last year we couldn't see them! He requested "a chocolate six cake with raspberries and eggs".
God bless all your days Bear xx
Woman with a garden inside her is the title of this astoundingly beautiful watercolour by my friend and artist Adam Lee. I think it sums up well how I feel today, on this my 32nd birthday. I have been blessed with the most sublime and sunshine filled autumn weather, blue sky and green grass and leaves begin to golden. I have been surprised with a smoke bush tree to plant and the most beautiful hand written card from my husband. I have filled a jug with flowers from my local green grocer and various things from my own garden. I have felt the soft fibres of wool and silk and mohair in my hands as I make slow progress on a cardigan. I have listened to and read birthday wishes from the dearest of friends and family. I have drunk tea outside, twice and soaked in the goodness of the earth. I am glad to be alive //
Baking festive cookies to share with family and friends fills me with joy! Here are five of my favourite recipes which I have tinkered and adapted to be gluten free and coeliac friendly...
* “Bunsli” Swiss Chocolate Spice Cookies *
The favourite. Hands down the best Christmas cookie! I like using ground hazelnuts instead of almonds in my Brunsli but you can use either or a combination of both. Nice dark chocolate and that hint of cinnamon and cloves makes them so special.
You will need:
3/4 cups white crystallised sugar 1 pinch of salt
250g ground hazelnuts (you can also use almonds or a mix of both)
1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons of ground cloves
2 tablespoons flour (I use rice flour)
2 fresh egg whites (70g), lightly beaten until frothy
100g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa
1/2 cup white sugar for rolling/dusting
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg whites with a fork until frothy but not stiff (you can also just shake them up in a jar with a lid until frothy) Add egg whites to dry ingredients and mix. Next melt dark chocolate and pour over other ingredients and mix well. Using clean hands knead dough into a ball.
On a lightly “sugared” (more white sugar) surface roll out dough to 1cm thickness and cut into desired shapes – if your cookie cutter gets too sticky, rinse in warm water - I keep a bowl next to me for this purpose. You will also need to re-sugar the work surface.
Arrange cookies on trays lined with baking paper and sprinkle with a little more sugar. Bake in a moderate oven (180’c) for 10 minutes (they will hardern as they cool down). Once cool, store cookies in an airtight container – they will last 3 weeks if stored like this.
**I find rolling out the dough on a piece of baking paper prevents sticky dough clean up, and you can use it for baking the final batch of shapes on**
* Raspberry Marshmallows *
Making your own marshmallows is fairly simple and satisfying: they are light and delicious! These ones include real raspberries which bring a gentle pink colour and flavour...
You will need:
1/2 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons powdered grass-fed beef gelatine
1/2 cup water
Place raspberries, sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Stir every so often to make sure all the sugar dissolves and the raspberries break up.
Meanwhile let the gelatine powder “bloom” by sprinkling it on top of the 1/2 cup water - I do this in a deep cooking pot or large mixing bowl.
Once the raspberry sugar syrup is gently boiling pour slowly onto the gelatine - whole beginning to beat with an electric mixer on a low speed. Slowly increase speed to high and beat mixture until it becomes thick and glossy, the colour will lighten. It takes about 8-10 minutes. Spread marshmallow mixture into a baking paper lined tray and set in the fridge for an hour or two.
Using a cookie cutter of your choosing press shapes out of the marshmallows and dust lightly with icing sugar and tapioca starch or cornflour. I make a mixture of 1 tablespoon or each. You can also use dedicated coconut. Store in an airtight container...
You can use all the offcuts for homemade rocky road or chopped up in festive warm drinks
* Zimtsternes: Cinnamon Stars *
I love to make are these cinnamon stars or “zimtsternes" as they are called in German. These are especially lovely with the addition of citrus zest and juice and ground cinnamon. Delicate, fragrant and spicy. They are often covered with white royal icing or meringue but I prefer them adorned simply with a thin brushing of egg white and a sprinkle of raw sugar...
You will need:
250 grams or 2 cups ground almond meal
1 pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons rice flour + 2 tablespoons tapioca starch OR 4 tablespoons of GF plain flour
1 cup crystallised or raw sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon or orange zest
2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
2 fresh egg whites, beaten until frothy
1 egg white, beaten and frothy, for brushing on top
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until frothy but not stiff. Add egg whites to dry ingredients and mix. Next stir in citrus zest and juice. Using clean hands knead dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface (lightly sprinkled with crystallised sugar too) roll out dough to 1cm thickness and cut into desired shapes. Arrange cookies on trays lined with baking paper and air dry for 2-4 if possible before baking (I have skipped this step many times before and they have worked out fine). Preheat oven to 180'c, brush cookies with egg white and bake cookies for 10 - 15 minutes, careful not to brown them - they will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.
* Gingerbread Angels *
It’s no secret that I love gingerbread. I share this recipe every year for your gluten free gingerbread needs! The psyllium husks is an unusual addition I know, but it really helps bring a little elasticity to the dough without drying it out. For added zing stir in a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger into the dough.
You will need:
3/4 cup of honey or golden syrup 2 cups of GF plain flour (or 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup buckwheat flour + 1 cup tapioca starch)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground cloves + ground cardamon
1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
1 tablespoon psyllium husks
1 small egg
Melt butter over low heat in medium sized saucepan, add honey or golden syrup and bring to a gentle boil, remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Add sifted dry ingredients, psyllium husks, spices and a small egg, stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover pot and stand at room temperature for 1 hour. It will thicken considerably and become more “dough” like.
Turn mixture on to surface which has been dusted with extra flour. Knead lightly, working in only enough flour until mixture loses its stickiness. I find rolling and cutting the dough on a piece of baking parchment/paper helps reduce stickiness. Roll dough to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut out shapes as desired.
Decorate with dried fruit such as cherries, currants and citrus peel. Bake in moderate oven (180’c) for 8-10 minutes or until golden. They will harden as they cool. Recipe can be doubled.
* French Style Chocolate Hearts *
This recipe is adapted from a French Christmas biscuit magazine I bought while we lived there. It’s a simple shortbread that is sure to please chocolate loving friends and relatives - with both flecks of chocolate throughout the cookie and one side dipped in rich, dark chocolate.
You will need:
2 cups GF plain flour (or 1 cup each rice flour and tapioca starch)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chocolate sprinkles or chopped chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch of salt
70g dark chocolate (70%) for melting
In a large bowl combine the above ingredients (except dark chocolate for melting) and shape with your hands into a ball. You can use a food processor on a low speed if you rather. Wrap dough in foil or plastic-wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile preheat oven to 180'c. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 cm thickness and cut into hearts - arrange on baking-paper lined trays bake until golden for 10-15 minutes. Cool. Melt dark chocolate and taking each heart dip one side into the chocolate, letting any excess chocolate drip off - before placing back onto the baking-paper lined tray to dry. It should take about 1 hour or two for the chocolate to set.
Hello friends, for the last little while I've been working on a resource exploring the beautiful season of Advent at home called Exploring Advent - it follows a similar pattern to my Embracing Easter workbook and contains four weeks worth of reflections, scriptures, poems, activities and recipes designed to help us slow down and savour this season of hopeful anticipation and expectant joy...
I feel the need, this year more than ever, to take time away from news feeds and social media reels, from busyness and to-do lists - to seek simplicity in my home and faith leading up to Christmas. To see Advent as an opportunity to nourish ourselves; to contemplate the truly wonderful gifts Jesus brought us with his birth: of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
I want to soak in these gifts, remember what this season is truly about and then to share them with my loved ones, neighbours, community and world. Will you join me in exploring Advent this year?
Today we celebrated Beren's fifth birthday! He is wonderful; funny, curious, strong-limbed, sensitive and we love him...
It seems like yesterday he was born; my autumn baby, my biggest baby (8lbs11oz), my shortest labour (3.5hrs), with a head of silky dark hair just like mine had been as a baby. When my grandma was told of his birth she said "Beren the Brown", and he certainly was as a newborn, but by his first birthday he was becoming blonde. Sometime between his first and second birthday his tight curls emerged and have stayed every since!
I knitted him a second stockinette snake (his first greeny-hued one was a Christmas present) - but this time in red, black and grey. A homage to the many, many red and black drawings he does at the moment.
He requested a "chocolate cake with lots of red and a red and black snake" - I made a gluten-free devils food chocolate cake with ermine frosting, and with the help of some marzipan I shaped a red and black snake and some rocks and toadstools. Raspberries and strawberries added some tasty "red" along with geraniums from the garden and sprigs of green mint and nasturtium leaves. He was well-pleased!
Today was my birthday. I turned thirty one! And so enjoyed celebrating with a quiet day at home with my little people; the autumn sun shone brightly and there were plenty of moments to sit and knit and sip milky tea. I made an upside down pear and ginger cake and one of my favourite dishes - moussaka - using beef from the farm for dinner. Alex surprised me with a playlist of my favourite tunes from the last decade and a brand new axe! It is a really very lovely Swedish crafted axe and will make chopping the wood so much more enjoyable...
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...