Recipe of the week: Robin cookies by Kim-Joy
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These spiced cookies by Kim-Joy look like adorable festive birds
With cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom, these spiced biscuits tick all the Christmas flavour boxes. Although, Kim-Joy didn’t initially intend on making sugar wings for these robins – that came about as a lucky accident when she was playing around with the recipe.
“They’re filled in the middle with hard crack sugar caramel that’s coloured orange,” she explains. “After a while that started setting – then we twisted it and did some sugar work to make some little wings for the robin, so it kind of worked out well.”
For the speculoos cookie dough:
250g salted butter (or replace with vegan butter – for the best results, use vegan butter that’s close to 80 per cent fat)
250g brown cassonade sugar (or light brown muscovado sugar)
¾tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp ground nutmeg
⅛tsp ground white pepper
⅛tsp ground cloves
⅛tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of ground anise
¼tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ egg (or 2tbsp aquafaba)
350g plain flour (or gluten-free flour plus ⅓tsp xanthan gum) plus extra for dusting
You can also add the finely grated zest of 2 lemons or 2 oranges to flavour
For the sugar centre:
225g caster or granulated sugar
150g liquid glucose
Orange gel food dye
For the royal icing:
40g egg white (substitute with aquafaba for a vegan version)
225g icing sugar
Plus extra egg white (or aquafaba) and icing sugar to adjust and get the right consistency
Black and orange gel
Sprinkles of your choice
1. For the cookie dough: line a baking sheet that you can fit in the fridge with baking paper and set aside for now. Cream the butter and sugar until the butter and sugar is soft, fluffy and paler in colour.
2. Add all the spices, bicarbonate of soda and egg or aquafaba, then mix until combined.
3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add all the flour. Use your hands to rub the butter and sugar mixture into the flour, then combine into a ball.
4. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, then use cutters to stamp out circles, about 7.5cm in diameter, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. On half the cookies, stamp out a smaller circle, about 4cm from the lower third area.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to colour. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
6. When the cookies are cool, make the sugar glass for the centre. Add the caster sugar, liquid glucose and water to a small saucepan and stir to combine. Add a drop of orange gel food dye to colour. Heat over a high heat, but don’t stir at all until the mixture reaches 150°C. Remove the pan from the heat and use a large spoon to spoon the sugar syrup into the centre of the cookies. Immediately scatter over sprinkles. Leave the sugar syrup for 20 minutes, or until completely hardened, then peel off the baking paper.
7. Next, make the royal icing. Combine the egg white/aquafaba and icing sugar until you get a smooth consistency. Then add tiny amounts of extra egg white (or aquafaba) and/or icing sugar to get the right consistency. Spoon one-third of the mixture into a piping bag, then divide the remaining icing between two bowls. Stir black food dye into one bowl and orange food dye into the other to colour.
8. Transfer each colour to a piping bag and cut a small opening on each. Use to pipe a robin design. The wings are an optional extra decoration. You can make them by letting the leftover sugar syrup cool, then pulling it into a long wide ribbon using your hands and cutting it into pieces with scissors. Just be careful not to do this when the sugar is too hot! It needs to be cooled to the point where it can be stretched and is malleable.