After Anthony is done with his shift, the kitchen light out, we'll head outside to light a box of fireworks from last year. The night will be brilliant, I hope it will be rainless too. Closer to midnight the two of us will race home, we'll probably make it with only a few minutes to spare before more fireworks erupt with glee, rip through the dark sky, replace oxygen with sulphur. We'll open a bottle of Benoît Lahaye Brut, pop, and cut into a fine, rich, soft panettone, the knife will only sigh through it and clink against the plate. The champagne will taste like freshly baked puff pastry and vanilla cream, the panettone, redolent with candied citrus peel and yeast, will give on the tongue. We'll watch the fireworks from our balcony.
Some time before Christmas I give one of these spice cookies to Olivia the Cat Lady. She asks what's in it. "Oh, there is liqueur in it?" She sounds surprised, emphasizes 'liqueur', lifts it and stretches it like an accordion. "I shall wait till evening to have it. I don't like liqueur in the morning", she says. "But thank you very much, very nice of you!" She wraps it in a napkin, puts it in her heavy-duty bag, next to a can of cat food and a roll of wrapping paper with reindeer on it. She'll tell me in a day she loved the cookie very much.
Sounds already crackle through the air like a child playing with bubble wrap.
Yield: 16 cookies
Complex, laden with winter spices, chocolate, citrus zest, and currants soaked in liqueur, with the crumb that is like velvet, and with the top thinly coated with sharp lemon glazing, they are wonderful, mysterious, perfect winter cookies. I bet they'll remind you of Terry's Chocolate Orange. Only these are better!
125 g currants
2 tablespoons honey liqueur (see notes above)
240 g plain flour
7 g best-quality cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
150 g good-quality dark chocolate, finely ground
125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
grated zest of a medium orange
grated zest of a medium lemon
½ medium free-range egg
1 tablespoon finely diced candied citrus peel
3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
120 g icing sugar
Soak the currants in the honey liqueur for 10 minutes. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, then add the spices, salt and dark chocolate. Mix well with a whisk.