Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

A time to celebrate

With a new year just around the corner, now is the time to think of new aspirations even in the midst of difficulties, writes Moushira Abdel-Malek

liv1
liv1
Al-Ahram Weekly

Happy or depressed... Relaxed or stressed... It’s time to get ready for the new year. Even so, the end of a year can be a time of chagrin, emotion and contemplation. A declining year with all its good things, or even bad events, can give rise to mixed emotions. With Christmas and the new year in the air, it’s time to think about that end-of-year spirit, despite the sometimes bleak situation.
The season is imposing itself, and calamities are piling on top of us. And yet it is time to “bury the hatchet”, if only for a few weeks and until after Egyptian Christmas on 7 January 2013. Try to make the best of the worst. Put some magic in your heart and cheer up with your loved ones, family and friends.
When you pull out that box of ornaments for your tree every year, you are taking a nostalgic ride down memory lane and through some of your most treasured memories. This year, the tree has been decorated for weeks, during which time your stress levels have been rising. Still uncertain about what to do? Don’t be: bundle up your negative feelings and throw them out. Take a positive step and fill your heart with hope and colour, with the real Christmas spirit, with the spirit of love and forgiveness, with peace and goodwill.
Decorating the tree, the symbol of life, and covering it with a long line of shimmering lights should lighten up your heart and enlighten your thoughts. If this symbolic concept does not touch you, your efforts will be futile. The newborn baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was purity personified. He, the tree and the lights say it all.
Another part of the seasonal fun is food. What is a Christmas or new year celebration without a stuffed turkey, a Christmas pudding, an old-fashioned fruit cake, or an assortment of Christmas and new year’s biscuits and cookies? So let us dig into some biscuit and cookie baking and fill the home with comfort food, the smell of oven baking and warmth on cold winter nights.
To add more fun and for an extra-special treat, let the little ones share your baking recipes. Give your children or grandchildren lasting memories of the time they got all messy baking some Christmas cookies with you. Turn it into a Christmas to remember by baking a gingerbread man, Christmas shortbread or some Christmas mince pies.
Here are some tips to help you achieve better results with your cookie baking:
- When baking cookies, oven trays should be heavy and perfectly flat. If the recipe says to grease the tray, use unsalted butter, oil or a non-stick spray. Make sure the whole area is lightly greased. However, do not over-grease baking trays. Too much greasing will cause cookies to become too dark underneath while baking.
- When placing the trays in the oven, make sure the heat can circulate well around them. Check from time to time and turn the trays to ensure even colouring.
- If cookies like choc-chip ones need to be crunchy, they should be flattened before baking. If they are desired to be chewy, leave them thick and high when shaped.
- Cookies always seem soft when removed from the oven. After cooling off, they become crisper. Crisp cookies should be stored in an airtight container. Limp or stale biscuits can be revived by heating in the oven, uncovered, for five minutes. Always allow biscuits to cool completely before storing in airtight containers.
- When shaping dough by hand (not by moulds or cutters), use cool hands dusted with flour. Do not overwork the dough, as it may toughen and crack when baked. If the dough is very sticky, roll it out with a rolling pin between two lightly floured sheets of grease-proof paper.
- Mix dough well but lightly. You can use a wooden spoon or an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar mixtures, and to beat in eggs or essence. Stir in dry ingredients with a spoon, just until combined, as electric mixers tend to overwork the dough.
- When creaming butter and sugar mixtures, do not over-cream. Beat only until light and fluffy. Over-beating will cause the mixture to become too soft, causing biscuits to spread extensively during baking.
- In very humid conditions, store biscuits in airtight containers in the refrigerator for best flavour and texture.
- If the texture of the dough, like shortbread, is soft, refrigerate before shaping for at least 30 minutes. If dry, add some milk to the dough mixture. Knead it in and allow five minutes for it to be absorbed before shaping. Then shape as round, square or Christmas-tree shapes, or as angels or bells (making a hole before baking, if desired, so you can thread colourful ribbon through and hang the cookies as ornaments on your tree).
- Always use butter not margarine. Butter seems to hold the mixture together better. The secret to crisp, tender, buttery shortbread lies in the kneading. Knead the dough gently until very smooth.
- Allow the hot cookies to stand for at least a couple of minutes on the baking trays. Then transfer them onto a wire rack to completely cool off.
When you are done after a long day’s preparation, go to sleep in heavenly peace and the warm glow of Christmas will soon creep over you, hovering above you in peace and serenity. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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