Served fresh from the oven these festive figures won't last long. It is best to bake a double quantity and freeze one portion without the icing. Thaw shortly before serving, then ice and reheat briefly.
Lynn Lewis and Joachim Wahnschaffe
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80 ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
500g (4 cups) plain flour
200ml (3/4 cup) milk
10g (1/4 oz) dry yeast
60g (1/3 cup) white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
A selection of cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, poppyseeds and almonds
FOR THE GLAZE
200g (1 2/3 cups) icing sugar
1 tablespoon red jam
2–3 drops red food colouring
1 egg white
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Directions Preparation:1hour20min › Cook:15min › Extra time:1hour10min › Ready in:2hours45min
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. To make the dough, mix oil with salt and flour in a bowl. Heat milk until lukewarm. Stir the yeast, sugar and eggs into 170 ml (2/3 cup) of the millk and pour into flour mixture.
Knead to form a smooth dough, if necessary adding just enough of the remaining milk to make the dough soft and very slightly sticky. Shape dough into a ball, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface for about 5 minutes. Roll out dough to make 2 rectangles, each 15×30 cm. Cut out 14 triangles of equal size and place on baking trays.
Brush the dough triangles with milk. Decorate the faces using nuts and seeds. Cover and let rise for 30–40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Bake cookies, one tray at a time, for 15–20 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack.
Combine 50g (1/3 cup) icing sugar, the jam and the food colouring. Use to paint hats on the Santas. Beat egg white until stiff; beat in the remaining icing sugar until the mixture is very shiny and forms peaks.
Pour icing into a piping bag and pipe wavy lines for the beards and hat trim. Leave to dry at room temperature.