White Christmas Cookies

This post started out nearly three months ago as an exposition on sugar.

Photograph: D Morrison/Express/Getty Images

More specifically, I planned to write about the new Fairtrade sugars of Tate & Lyle and the 6000 small-scale sugar cane growers in Belize who have benefited from this conversion of the sugar giant’s retail range. I wanted to tell you how the farmers now receive a Fairtrade Premium in the region of US$60 per tonne for their crop as a result of the certification. This really has significant effects on investment in environmental and economic changes. Raynaldo Aban, a sugar cane farmer from San Joaquin village in Corazal, Belize, described how crucial this premium is to his community:

“The income that we will get will help us in many projects, such as infrastructure, and community development. I would like to tell the people from Great Britain that Belize has a good quality of sugar, and that farmers in Belize will benefit a lot from being certified as Fairtrade.”

I should mention that, whilst I had noticed the Fairtrade logo on bags of Tate & Lyle sugar more than three months ago and had already mentally added them to the list of brands I will put in my shopping trolley, I hadn’t planned to post about this switch until I received an email from the agency representing Tate & Lyle. The cynical among you might now be thinking, “Aha – I thought you said you didn’t do advertising on your blog.” Well, no. I actually said that I rarely find anything to inspire me in the sort of generic, ‘write-about-this-and-we’ll-send-you-loads-of-freebies’ emails that seem to do the rounds in the food blogging world. I’m more than happy to receive suggestions that attune with my own passions and views however, and I welcomed an opportunity to delve further into the background behind Tate & Lyle’s conversion to Fairtrade.

I have to confess that I find Tate & Lyle’s new Fairtrade website more interesting than their Facebook page, We Love Baking, but that’s probably because I still don’t really ‘get’ Facebook. With three children, I struggle to find time even to check my email once a day, so I’m an unlikely candidate for becoming part of an active online community anymore. But that’s not Facebook’s fault, and the Tate & Lyle baking group certainly appears to be motivated and encouraging.

So why has it taken me so long to get around to writing this post? Well, as I just said, I’m slightly tied up in the taxi-driving madness of motherhood these days, so any job that doesn’t directly involve placating screaming children tends to be relegated to the bottom of the to-do list. But Tate & Lyle very kindly sent me a package of their Fairtrade sugar samples in a follow-up to their original email, so surely I could have kicked my ass into gear before now? Okay, okay, I know – but you see, the problem wasn’t solely a time-issue thing. I couldn’t decide exactly which recipe I most wanted to write about.

First of all, there was the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. The one that used Tate & Lyle’s Fairtrade granulated sugar.

Then there was the one for the white chocolate and cardamom cookies we made for the children’s ballet teacher at the end of term. Drizzled with melted white chocolate, the rich cardamom mingled with the perfumes of vanilla to create almost lemony overtones. Besides, I also wanted to tell you about the ballet school’s show and urge anyone within distance to hurry to the Manor Pavillion in Sidmouth on January 15th/16th next year to see The Lost Girl and other ballets.

Then the snow fell, fairy lights twinkled in the trees and we found ourselves racing headlong towards a breathtakingly beautiful white Christmas. We mixed together the seasonal colours and created orange-spiced cookies bursting with pistachios, cranberries and white chocolate chips for our neighbours.

It might have been three months in the making, but I would finally like to conclude my overdue exposition on sugar with perhaps the best gift of all (depending on your aversion or otherwise to cookies) – the recipe for the best-ever chocolate chip cookie with variations for white chocolate cardamom and seasonal colour varieties.

Enjoy – and Happy Holidays 🙂

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies (by me and according to my children)

7 3/4 oz butter, softened
5 1/2 oz Fairtrade granulated sugar
6 oz Fairtrade light brown muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs (3 1/2 oz without shells)
12 3/4 oz strong white (bread) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
12 oz plain/milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.

Lightly beat the eggs together with the vanilla and add gradually to the creamed mixture.

Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir into the dough until just combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop large tablespoonfuls of the dough onto ungreased baking trays, leaving plenty of room for the cookies to expand during baking. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the pre-heated oven (9 minutes in my oven gives the best results for a crunchy-on-the-outside/soft-in-the-middle texture).

Remove the cookies carefully with a spatula and cool on wire racks.

Makes c. 30 cookies.

White chocolate and cardamom variation: replace the plain/milk chocolate chips with white chocolate chips or chunks and add the ground seeds from 3 cardamom pods to the dry ingredients.

Seasonal colours variation: replace the plain/milk chocolate chips with 6 oz white chocolate chips or chunks and also stir in 4 oz dried cranberries, 4 oz chopped pistachios and the grated zest of 1 orange.

Leave a comment


  1. Dad

     /  December 25, 2010

    What a busy girl you’ve been – and are.
    Are we going to sample the results of this blog today?
    My mouth waters in anticipation, sugar plum!

  2. Lucy

     /  January 2, 2011

    Another family request… they look delicious, can you make a low-fat version perchance?
    And could you give me that no-fat chocolate (alcoholic!) cake you made for Mark, please?

    Hope you all had a lovely New Year

    • I’m not sure about a low-fat version of the cookies … unless you’re not counting the butter. But the cake … do you mean the one that got stuck in the Christmas tree cake pan and I doctored with raspberry/brandy syrup to moisten?! Of course – I’ll email you the ‘recipe’ asap 🙂

      • Lucy

         /  January 3, 2011

        Thank you, that’s the one! Glad you interpreted my message correctly – I was a bit worried you might post me a cake but you understood that I meant the recipe, phew that might have got messy.
        It is the butter content in cookies which means I don’t cook them. I really should get that book which replaces fats with fruit/vegetables so I can bake for Mark more.

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