Christmas fruit and nut cookies


Makes about 24

Studded with chocolate and cranberries, these cookies will fill your house with the heady scent of star anise.

360g granulated sugar

90g soft dark brown sugar

240g unsalted butter, softened

1tsp vanilla essence

1 egg (at room temperature) beaten

1 egg yolk

450g self-raising flour

2tsp Chinese five spice powder

200g dark Belgian chocolate

120g currants

120g dried cherries

60g slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Using a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar until it becomes light and fluffy, then add the vanilla, followed by the egg and yolk; keep stirring so that the egg is completely amalgamated. Follow this with the flour and five-spice powder, stirring so that it is incorporated.

Once you have mixed the dough you can add the chocolate, fruit and nuts. Xanthe likes to keep the chocolate chunks large, so her preferred method is to cut them herself (just chop the bar into half squares, roughly), but feel free to use chocolate chips if you prefer.

Use a tablespoon to drop the mixture on to a baking sheet – you will not need to grease it as there is a high fat content in these cookies. You should be able to fit about a dozen on the baking sheet, and bake at the centre of the oven for about 10 minutes.

To make a nice soft cookie they should be slightly undercooked – they will continue to cook when you take them out. The top should not look raw, but be starting to turn a nice golden colour. Don't panic if the cookies have turned a slightly browner shade– they will still taste delicious but they will just have a firmer texture when they cool down.

Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for two or three minutes before removing to a rack to continue cooling.

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