This time of the year doesn't feel the same to me without the smell of a Christmas tree wafting through the house. Growing up surrounded by pine forests we always had a 'real' Christmas tree. Sometimes it was just a branch, lopped off by my Dad and dragged up the steep hill to the house. Other times they were specially chosen trees, still from our property, but grand in size and shape. I don't remember having low ceilings, and often they'd graze the top, other times they'd bend over like a tall person trying to feel small.
My husband isn't a fan of the mess that comes with real trees (sigh), so my children have sadly been robbed of the one thing that to me signals the festive season thus far. But now that we're back home in NZ and once again surrounded by pine trees I've made him accept that it's a must and a tree we now have! Well, random leggy branch of a tree really... but oh the smell!
For sentimental humans such as I, the tradition of Christmas is the most beautiful part. I don't love hearing Christmas carols blasting from every shop, though thankfully now we no longer live in a city I'm yet to be bombarded with carols this year. I also don't love the frantic buy, buy, BUY mentality so many get caught up in.
For me it's the little, less in your face traditions I love the most. The smell of pine in the air, the trifle you hope will make an appearance on the Christmas table, the family coming together (and hopefully all getting along!) and the little homemade gifts my Nana and great-aunt used to make for each family. A tradition I hope to someday fully have time to realise. I'm yet to get quite as far as them, with baskets full to the brim with preserves and home baking. But the baking bit I can usually find time for, especially buttery gluten-free shortbreads, spiked with interesting spices and chocolate.
Gluten-free cardamom, black pepper + dark chocolate cookies
The beauty of these kind of cookies, is that you can have the dough tucked away in the fridge for up to a week. When the craving arises simply slice off as many cookies as you'd like to bake and return the dough to the fridge until the next craving... The cookies can also be baked off and frozen for later enjoyment.
Makes approx. 28 bite-sized cookies
100 g salted Westgold butter, softened
100 g (1/2 cup) unrefined raw sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large free-range egg, at room temperature
150 g (1 1/4 cups) brown rice flour
50 g (1/2 cup) gluten-free cornflour (starch)
The finely ground seeds from 8 cardamom pods (approx 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
50 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla using an electric beater or wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat in. Sift over brown rice flour, cornflour (starch) and the finely ground cardamom seeds. Add black pepper and chocolate, then mix to form a soft dough. Take a sheet of baking (parchment) paper and lay it on your bench. Transfer the dough onto the paper and form a rough log shape. Roll up the paper, like you would sushi, twist the ends in opposite directions to form a tight log. Chill in the fridge 2-4 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake. Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F). Line two oven trays with baking paper or grease well.
Unwrap the cookie dough and slice into 1 cm rounds. Re-shape if necessary, then transfer to a tray. Bake cookies 10-15 minute, or until light golden, rotating trays halfway to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and set aside to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further. Best eaten on day of baking, however they will store airtight 2-3 days or can be frozen for up to 3 months.
This post is sponsored by Westgold ~ Pure New Zealand Butter. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies who help me bring tasty recipes to you all.