in the kitchen with: caroline swift’s holiday treats

caroline swift‘s work was the first work that jumped out at me in the press office at tent london in september, and in my personal opinion for the product and the styling (and presentation), she was the best exhibitor, hands down. we usually force people to choose their favorite recipe for this column, but when caroline sent over her seasonal favorites, how on earth could we ask her to pick only one? and in one of the hardest acts of selflessness this year, i even managed to buy some of her beautiful bowls for a friend for christmas and not get any myself! i should have my head checked! click here for the full recipe (and more gorgeous pictures) for caroline’s christmas cookies, winter cherry brownies and champagne sorbet. –kristina

more about caroline below…

Christmas cookies recipe
(makes four large boxes of cookies)

1 full cup of softened unsalted butter (200g)
1 cup of superfine/caster sugar (180g)
3 cups of plain flour (320g)
1 large egg
11/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
small quantity of instant royal icing sugar to decorate

I have used a combination of tiny cutters that I found on various sugar decorating websites and a few shapes that I have made myself by drawing on the back of pizza boxes or cereal packets. These cardboard shapes are then cut out with scissors and using a sharp knife it is easy to cut around the templates that are placed on top of the rolled out cookie dough. The less perfectly drawn, the more charming the cookies and anything goes.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C, (180 degrees C fan), at least half an hour before baking.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a food mixer or with an electric hand whisk and then add the egg and vanilla extract, mixing well. Mix the baking power with the flour and add to the butter/ sugar/egg mixture until a soft dough forms.

Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour before rolling out on to a well-floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough to around 3mm of thickness and using a small sharp knife cut around the templates, placing them on to greaseproof paper on a flat baking tray.

I usually chill one tray of cookies while the other tray is in the oven as it helps them to keep their shape. Bake similar sized shapes together for approximately 6-8 minutes or until nice and brown at the edges. Bake all the larger cookies first and with the remainder of the dough re-knead, roll out and cut all the tiny shapes, baking for less time, approximately 4 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking tray before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

I think that these look just as nice un-decorated but if you have the time then you just need to make up a small quantity from a packet of instant royal icing and with a piping bag and small nozzle pipe some iced lines around the edges. It is much easier than you would think and can be quite therapeutic!

I have used my black boxes from my cashmere packaging and a black velvet ribbon but if you prefer to hang the cookies from a branch or Christmas tree then just use a straw to make small holes before baking and string with a black or white ribbon.

Winter cherry brownies

Makes 9 to 12 brownies, depending on size.

100g of softened unsalted butter and a little extra for greasing (3.5 ounces /7 Tbs)
3 large eggs
150g of light muscovado sugar (3/4 cup)
150g of good quality plain chocolate (5 ounces)
100g of self-raising flour (3.5 ounces / .8 cup)
50 g of dried black cherries (soaked overnight) or 50g of tinned black morello cherries (2 ounces)
icing sugar to decorate and a small delicate stencil (found in most craft shops)

Grease the tin of a 20cm/9” square baking tin and line the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (fan oven 160 degrees C)

Using a kitchen mixer or electric hand whisk, beat the sugar and eggs together.

Slowly melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water and once melted completely, stir into the egg and sugar mixture.

Sift the flour in to the bowl and mix in followed by the cherries, mixing again.

Pour the mixture into the baking tin, level off and then bake for 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly in the baking tin (about ten minutes) before removing from the tin to a wire rack to cool completely. With a large sharp knife level off the top and then turning upside down cut into nine or twelve squares.

Using a small fine-meshed sieve, fill with a little icing sugar and placing the stencil on each brownie lightly dust from a height to give an even coating

Champagne Sorbet

1 bottle of champagne or italian prosecco
1 ¼ cups of caster/superfine sugar
1 cup of water
juice of 2 limes and zest for decoration
2 egg whites

the recipe can be halved if you want to make less.

add the sugar to the water in a medium saucepan and on a medium heat stir until the sugar has dissolved then lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. set aside to cool completely.

if you have an ice-cream maker then this can be made an hour before serving. otherwise, it is best to make this the day before.

using an ice-cream maker, combine the cooled sugar syrup, champagne and lime juice and freeze the mixture in an ice-cream maker, according to the manufacturers instructions, until it is frozen but still soft. beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the sorbet.. return to the freezer until firm enough to serve. store in a plastic container with greaseproof paper and a lid. if the sorbet is solid it may need twenty minutes in the fridge before serving.

still freezing, add the champagne and limejuice to the sugar syrup in a shallow freezer proof container, cover and place in the coldest part of the freezer. you may need two containers as the liquid should not be more than 1 ½ inches deep. freeze for 1 ½ hours and then beat with electric beaters or whiz in a food mixer to break up the ice crystals and form an even slush.. repeat this twice until it is frozen but still soft and then beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the sorbet freezing until firm.

store in a plastic container with greaseproof paper and a lid. if the sorbet is solid it may need twenty minutes in the fridge before serving.

to decorate: wash the limes with hot water and using a zester or sharp knife peel a few strands of lime zest and place on top to serve.

why caroline chose these recipes:

i love cookies, cakes, chocolate, ice cream and all things sweet and am at my happiest when i am making things in my apron, either my apron for the ceramic studio or my one at home in the kitchen. my sketchbooks are crammed with ideas for recipes and new ways to present things, all fighting for space with ideas for ceramics, clothes and plants!!

the brownies recipe is a classic that can be made with a hundred variations and i loved the little winter tree stencils that i found in my local craft shop. i have been making cookies for years and love the way that each time am inspired to make something different. this time i wanted to make a box of winter cookies inspired by the hansel and gretel fable.

the sorbet recipe is great for christmas and I wanted to make something that would look beautiful in my delicate bone china pieces. champagne sorbet is easy and yet impressive to serve between courses or as dessert.

about caroline:

caroline swift has worked in the field of knitwear design for almost twenty years. working in new york, england and italy as head of knitwear for benetton she has enjoyed an exciting career designing for different markets from luxury to high street and travelled the world for research.

in 2003, disillusioned with the obsessive pressures to produce unlimited commercial collections she gave up her job and moved to sri lanka and india to work as a volunteer, teaching english.

on return to the uk, she wanted to re-connect with the passion that she had previously felt for design. the desire to make things came back but only in a totally uncompromised way. she started designing cakes for a book that she was writing and styling and then found that she could not source the right plates for her photographs, so started making them herself. this sense of curiosity has led to designing products in all areas in the same uncompromising fashion.

her own label is her own personal approach to design. slow design, where care is taken and quality paramount. slow design is not about taking ages making things; rather it is a philosophy about taking pleasure and pride in making things and passing that on.

caroline swift launched her debut collection in september 2008.
the collection includes homewares and clothing with an over-riding philosophy. all materials are natural, all products are made with integrity and to the highest quality, often inspired by nature, every piece is unique. each item is exquisitely gift-packaged in bespoke boxes, hand-made felt bags and tied with porcelain gift tags.

for the home collection, caroline has developed her ceramic skills to the highest level working with traditional materials to produce products that are simply beautiful, timeless and yet contemporary. the range includes paper-thin bone china bowls, tea lights and spoons, decorative porcelain hanging leaves and stoneware flowers. the collection also includes beautiful hand-blown glass bauble vases from italy.

  1. These are so gorgeous it makes my non-baking self want to head straight to the kitchen and get to work.

  2. michelle says:

    those branches! I had never thought of that. lovely.

  3. Flo says:

    Those are the most beautiful cookies and brownies ever!!!!
    Love the shapes, the stencils used to decorate with sugar on top, the presentation, everything!
    Can I copy? Need to make my own presents instead of buying them, this year…

  4. I love how you styled the ingredients – too cute!

  5. Lisa says:


    I really enjoyed reading about your slow design philosophy! I understand exactly why you left the more commercial aspects of design behind. Your work is beautiful and thoughtful.

  6. Catherine says:

    Yes, the styling of the ingredients is so fun. Makes the mundane beautiful.

    Can’t wait to try the champagne sorbet!

  7. Kristan says:

    OH MY, what amazingly beautiful treats! I can GUARANTEE you they would not look anything like this if I tried…

  8. Oh, my gosh! Those photographs are beautiful! I wish she would do a cookbook . . . so I could buy it!

  9. the purcells says:

    champagne sorbet sounds delicious! thanks for the great holiday recipe.

  10. puck says:

    the brownies with the stencils are great!! i cannot wait to try it!

  11. Tiina says:

    I just absolutely love the style of these photograhps. What a different way to display cooking projects. I have to share this link with all my friends who are interested in food photography and visual design. Beautiful!

  12. Cheyl says:

    Wow. These are sooo pretty. I love those christmas cookies especially and the lovely scene they make! So simple and elegant looking. And having the recipe now tempts me to make them. Thanks, Caroline!

  13. nichole says:

    Wow. This is hands-down my favorite holiday related post to date. Such a pleasure to read. Thanks so much for sharing her lovely goodies!

  14. Anne-Marie says:

    generous and IMPRESSIVE !

  15. lm says:

    wow the detail on those brownies! those are beautiful! Almost too beautiful to eat!

  16. megusta says:

    Hi, this is the first time to leave a comment on your blog.
    I have been enjoying reading and seeing gorgeous photos. It inspires my creativity!

    These photos are so pretty.

  17. Hi Caroline, I LOVE how thin your bone china is, when I was little my Mum told me you could tell how good bone china was by whether you could see the tea through the cup…I certainly bet that is possible with your lovely work. Thanks also for the excellent recipes and photos. Brava…Patricia

  18. CocoaStomp says:

    Holy cow, those cookies are truly magical. And the brownie stencil is exquisite. Can’t wait to see more from Caroline Swift!

  19. Caroline,
    Your work and design philosophy are inspirational! What a confirmation that it’s fine, better than fine, wonderful, to design from the heart.
    Thank you.

  20. daniela says:

    so beautiful! (the smile too)

  21. marina says:

    I love your crations!
    I think that you are very creative.

  22. angie says:

    exactly what I need today! I’m ready to do some holiday baking! Thank you!

  23. WV says:

    I love how you visually showed the ingredients so beautifully! What a pleasure to look at a recipe this way! It makes me want to bake i think!?

  24. Stacey says:

    That is the cutest box of cookies ever!!

  25. josie jo says:

    Simply stunning! Martha Stewart eat your heart out! (at least try one of caroline’s brownies first:)

  26. sarah uk says:

    just follwoed the recipe for your cookies, absolutely lovely they came out fab and made my house smell great

  27. sarah uk says:

    forgot to say thanks you xx

  28. shradha says:

    hey.. can u pls gv me some recipe 4 veg dishes.. i dont eat egg to.. some recipe 4 brownie/cookies/cheesecakes without egg n with the excellent decor u follow..thnx in advance

  29. janesdesigns says:

    Oh my, Love the cookies, so very pretty.

  30. kristina says:

    Hi Shradha,

    Thank you very much for reading the site and special thanks for reading the In the Kitchen With column.

    Thank you for inquiring about vegan recipes. Although every recipe submitted is not vegan, almost a quarter of our submissions have been vegan or can be very easily modified to be vegan. Unfortunately most of the submitted desserts do have butter in some form. You may try substituting a vegetable shortening in the pie crusts, though. Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of the Pie and Pastry Bible can help you with that. You might also visit 101 Cookbooks where Heidi has many dessert recipes to fit your bill.

    For our vegan recipes or recipes easily modified to be vegan you can search for: sidedish, 101 cookbooks, meg mateo ilasco, kristina at three layer cake, hoping for happy accidents, lisa neimeth (the granita, not the cookies!), Amenity Home , Matt Armendariz, lisa de john, curiosity shoppe, lotta jansdotter, lisa congdon, amy ruppel, alyson fox, karin eriksson.

    We’ll make an extra effort to get more vegan recipes in 2009!


  31. Celine Dalcher says:

    I just had a few friends round for a spicy curry and thought that a champagne sorbet for dessert was the perfect combination. Thank you for charing this great recipe and making me want to cook and bake.. It was delicious and perfect for our firing mouths.

    Merry christmas

  32. Just so nicely done.
    Beautiful display of old favorites.
    Thank you.

  33. R says:

    This is so nice! check out the
    Lemon Squares @ looks so beautiful and comes out soooo excellent….

  34. Kim S says:

    Your blog is so lovely! I’m showing it to my daughters in hopes of inspiring them to help me with my blog. My younger daughter, age 8, has expressed interest in being a food stylist in the past (although now she wants to be a boat captain) and my older daughter, age 15, loves photography. I’m hoping they’ll help me improve my blog by taking food pictures for me! :)

  35. Candace Walton says:

    This post was so beautiful!

  36. Joe says:

    Beautiful – we must make some cookies to give away in our art gallery here in London

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