I am no stranger to long stints in the kitchen, but as I write this I feel as though I am still recovering from the cooking marathon that happened this past weekend. It was all for a very special reason though, as I was preparing for my daughters 2nd birthday party!
We wanted to choose something (or in this case someone) that she really loves as the party theme, and this year it was a no-brainer - the furry little bear from Peru whose adventures we read every evening at bedtime, Paddington Bear.
On Sunday afternoon, 15 of my daughter's friends and their parents arrived at our home to celebrate. As seems to be the (unfortunate) tradition whenever we are entertaining in the garden the wind was howling, but we managed to secure the gazebo, tie up the bunting and lock down the balloons before everyone arrived at 3pm. The afternoon felt like it flew by in a flurry of activity, but judging by all the emails I received the following day everyone had a good time, and most importantly of all so did the birthday girl.
I have been asked in the past for my favourite sugar cookie recipe, and this is it. This recipe is from Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess" and apart from reducing the salt and using my own butter icing recipe this recipe is the same as the original. The dough keeps its shape beautifully during baking, and can be rolled and re-rolled several times. It can also be frozen, and of course - it tastes fantastic! I chose to include sugar cookies on the party menu - shaped as little slices of bread sandwiched together with orange butter icing. Because what would a Paddington party be without his favourite snack, marmalade sandwiches?
Cook's note - this biscuit dough is extremely versatile. I also decorated small paw shaped cookies with chocolate chips and fondant icing for the party. In the past I have also flavoured the dough with a teaspoon of cinnamon. You can drizzle them with ordinary glace icing or simply bake and enjoy as is with a dusting of icing sugar to serve. All of these ideas work well! (Ask me how I know.)
I also have to give a special mention to the very talented Madelyn from "Once Upon A Birthday" who created the amazing Paddington Bear figurine and marmalade pot that you see on top of the cake. To see more examples of her amazing work please visit her Facebook page by clicking here. Thanks Madelyn!
MARMALADE SANDWICH COOKIES
Makes approximately 20 sandwich cookies / 40 individual biscuits
(depending on the size of the cutter)
175g unsalted butter, softened
200g castor sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
400g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
extra flour for dusting
icing sugar for dusting (optional)
260g icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of orange gel colouring
3 tbsp milk
Step 1.) Cream the butter and castor sugar until pale and soft. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix in.
Step 2.) Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, then add this to the egg mixture. Mix gently until the dough comes together and everything is combined.
Step 3.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Step 4.) Preheat your oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Dust your surface with flour, pop the chilled dough on top and dust with a little more flour. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 5mm and use a cookie cutter to cut out your desired shape. Pop the shapes onto your prepared tray, leaving a little room in between for expansion.
Step 5.) Baking time will depend on the size of your cookies. Pop the tray in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for a further 4-6 minutes, until the cookies are starting to colour and are golden at the bottom. Place on a cooling rack and set aside to cool.
Step 6.) To make the butter icing: cream the butter until soft. Sift in the icing sugar and beat in until combined. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add a few drops of orange gel colouring until you reach the desired colour. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and beat to incorporate. You want a thick but spreadable mixture, so add more milk if required, to get the desired consistency.
Step 7.) Spread the icing onto the cooled cookies and sandwich them together. If you want you can add a fine dusting of icing sugar before serving.