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.
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.
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.
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.