Saturday 10 December 2016

Alpine, Nordic & Hygge Christmas Crafts

  Last Christmas I had a real focus on birch trees. I don't know why. But that meant that a lot of my Christmas crafts and recipes leaned in that direction. In truth, I have to commend myself for having applied it in so many ways.
   But otherwise, I tend to be drawn towards winter forests and frozen woodlands. I love trees - I know little about them, but I love their imposing nature. They take so long to grow, and indeed the longest living thing on our planet are bristlecone pine trees, with one believed to age 5,000 years. They grow so very slowly, witness so very much, and do great things for us, from providing shade and fruit, all the way to oxygen.

   And so my favourite Christmas decoration themes always seem to be the same: alpine, nordic, and now 'hygge' which is a term that has just started rolling around. I love wood, bark texture, neutral tones; it's so cosy and quiet, and given that my Christmases have never been loud family occasions, that kind of theme feels familiar and inviting.
   Last year I made lots of birch and winter forest themed crafts and recipes, or things that took their palette and simplicity from it. Some paired up quite well, too.
   Though I made new crafts and recipes this year, some more complicated than others, I'm still so very fond of last year's pieces, as well as a couple from the year before. So I decided to gather them all up and make a compilation post to throw them back into the foreground. And, so close to Christmas, I think it's good timing, as a number of them are perfect for Christmas day or Christmas parties and dinners.

Birch Tree Advent Calendar
Okay, so the timing on this one isn't so good, but I'm including it anyway because materials to make it - namely the purchase of the blank advent calendar house from craft stores - will be on sale now or soon, so it's a good thing to make in preparation for next year.
   I actually made this for Seeg. I had a Lily O'Brien's advent calendar house last year which I was sent to review (it was lovely, and I'm re-using the house this year), but that meant that he was without one. And as mine was so very much flashier than usual, it was only fair that his should be. Though his ended up being better because I bought so many chocolates to go in it that he had a few days with two chocolates...

Pinecone Cakes
   I love these so much! They look great, but they were so easy to make. I love it when things make a great impression and yet were no trouble to put together. I used a silicon easter egg cake mould to make the base, stuck the two halves together with a small amount of chocolate frosting then covered it in another layer, and then I pulled apart and cut up some chocolate bourbons (mmmmm) and stuck the square pieces of biscuit into the frosting at an angle. It looked a bit of a mess, but the sprinkling of icing sugar concealed it wonderfully. With practise, they would look amazing, but as it stands, this first attempt went down really, really well, and the mix of soft, moist cake and crunchy biscuits was simply divine. They looked good and tasted better.

Spiced Ginger Bread House Cakes
   These were also super easy and really attractive. I found this amazing silicon cake mould on ebay of a winter village and I simply needed it. This was back in July, I think, and it wasn't until Christmas that I finally got around to using it. I made a simple spiced ginger cake and cooked it in the moulds rather than a cake tin. They didn't turn out brilliantly because I wasn't sure how far to fill the cavities, and right now I can't actually remember how far I did, so I expect I'd run into the same problem again.
   But anyway, they turned out well enough, and with a little bit of royal icing I added some lovely details without piling on too much sugar. In fact, find a clean ginger cake recipe and it would be quite healthy. A little bit of royal icing and a few carefully placed sprinkles is far better than loads of sweets and frosting.
   Again, they tasted great and looked great, and I actually really liked the way it looked with minimal decoration; the white lines themselves popped really well.

Birch Tree Biscuits
   These were easy - so far, they've all been easy. All I did was coat some chocolate-filled wafer cigarellos with some white candy melts and then draw on them with an edible black pen. Using filled wafers was delicious, but it also made them sturdier, and meant that you could cut the ends to make sure they were flat and you could then stand them up. Visually, they paired perfectly with my gingerbread house cakes, and they were a great addition to a hot chocolate gift set, too!

Christmas Cake Card
   This one was easy, but it was somewhat unorthodox and kind of scary. I had no idea how it would turn out - people post cakes all the time, there are loads of people on Etsy selling them, but I didn't know how it would go if I did it. So I made a trial piece and posted it to myself...
   I baked a loaf cake in a small loaf tin, cut off a slice big/small enough to fit snugly into a small PiP box, about 110mm by 110mm - the boxes I use to ship my book flower necklaces and rings, in fact - and wrote the Christmas message on the inside of the lid. I made a few of these for family (despite having already posted normal Christmas cards), but as I said, I sent one to myself first. I made a small cake on Sunday, let it cool and everything, then packaged it in cellophane on Monday, put it in the box and posted it first class that afternoon, received it on the Tuesday but waited until Wednesday to open it to accommodate postal delays.
   The cake was still soft, moist and fresh; the PiP box kept it undamaged while also able to slip through the letter box, and the whole thing worked a charm. I made a larger cake a few days later and sent it out to close family and friends, and they all said it was so clever, and that the cake was fresh.

Bauble Villagers
   I threw this one together for Preloved's Advent competition, and they were so easy but so effective! I used some old plastic baubles along with some grey, black and white felt and a hot glue gun - and a small piece of baker's twine for one piece. The only issue I had with them was wrapping the felt around their bodies so that I could give them a scarf without pulling the collar down too far. It took a lot of adjusting on my first go, but I got there - you just have to get your eye in.

Hygge Christmas Crackers
   These were a lot of fun to make and went down really well. We never bother buying crackers anymore, they are always disappointing, either because they always have the same things in them, or because you paid so much to get luxury ones just for something different and only then realised you could have spent less and still had a better result.
   You can get blank crackers and snaps from craft shops and on ebay, and find jokes online. Then you can either buy little gifts you know people will want or use, or just fill them with chocolate like I did. Because chocolate is always welcome.

Winter Forest Cake
   I love decorating cakes, but I'm not very good with frosting. I'm not good at flat frosting, and neither am I very skilled with a piping bag. Fortunately, Christmas allows for an easy deception. Icing sugar gives a wonderful snowy look to cakes, but it also helps draw attention away from bad piping. I also made three tree biscuits - I made tall cones, knowing they'd slump, and used a skewer to poke holes. It slumped more than expected, but I'm still dead pleased with the turn out, given that there was no forward planning involved.


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