Firstly let me apologise for my lack of posts these past few weeks. I have a three pronged reasoning for this: work got really busy over half term, I then got a stomach bug and lost my appetite for over a week and baking was the last thing in the world I felt like doing (it took me a whole week to get the taste for coffee back – and if you know me that’s really saying something!) and finally I sprained the ligaments in my right wrist and I’m right handed, so needless to say it’s been tough to do anything – but even with a sprained wrist I bring you this latest and very first left handed bake!
But enough of the excuses, I am actually back and I’ve got a new (and seasonal) bake for you all – gingerbread christmas decorations.
I love Christmas and everything that comes with it. I’ve been drinking glühwein (mulled wine) for almost a month now I love the spices and aromas that are associated with Christmas and we even had our first Christmas cocktails last night; instigated by me no less!
375g plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
175g unsalted butter
150g light brown muscovado sugar
4 tablespoon golden syrup
300g royal icing sugar
a few drops of red and green food colouring paste
- Sieve the flour, bicarbonate soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and salt together in a mixing bowl and stand to one side.
- Place the butter, muscovado sugar and golden syrup in a bowl and heat gently until the butter is melted and the mixture combined, stir occasionally to stop the sugar caramelising.
- Make a well in the dry mixture and pour the sugar mixture into the well.
- Beat with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed, if the mixture feels too wet, add a little more flour a little at a time until you have a nice pliable dough.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead until the dough is a smooth round.
- Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for about 20 minutes until firm. (I used this time to clean my kitchen, spot the difference here.)
- Mean while, pre-heat your oven to 180˚C (Gas Mark 4) and grease and line two baking sheets with greaseproof or baking parchment.
- Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Take the dough of the fridge and roll out to approximately 5mm (1/5in) thick.
- Now it’s cookie cutter time! Cut out as many biscuits are you can from the rolled out dough, then carefully peel away the excess and transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheets. Leaving a generous gap between each biscuit (see step 12) as they will expand and rise slightly.
- Before we pop the first batch in the oven, we need to make a hole in the top of each biscuit to thread ribbon through after they’re baked and decorated. To do this just take a piping nozzle and push it into the biscuit leaving a 5mm gap from the edges of the biscuit to avoid breakages, if it does break gently push it back together and it’ll heal when it bakes; magic!
- Pop the first tray in the oven for 6 minutes 30 seconds. Precise I know, but I’ve found this the minimum time that they’ll be baked in, and as I always say you can add more, you can’t take away!
- Whilst the others are in prepare a second tray, ready to put in when they others come out.
- After 6 minutes and 30 seconds check the biscuits, they should all be an even golden brown colour, darker than when they went in. It’s easier to see if they’re not ready than if they are, if they’re not ready they won’t be the same colour all over, but you have to ensure that the edges aren’t catching (i.e. they’ve had their time and now they’re burning!) I hope this makes sense. Only leave them in for 1 extra minute at a time if they’re not ready.
- When you take them out of the oven, place the tray onto the work surface, take your piping nozzle and make the hole in the top of each biscuit again as it will have closed up as the biscuits rose. This needs to be done whilst the biscuits are still hot and therefore soft; as they harden as they cool. Once you’ve done this, carefully transfer them to a cooling rack.
- Repeat steps 8 through 14 until all the dough is used up.
I had some royal icing sugar left in the cupboard to use up, so I’m afraid I’ve cheated here! But royal icing isn’t difficult to make, it’s regular icing made up of confectioners sugar and egg white. Here’s a link to make it from scratch.
- Place the royal icing sugar in a bowl with 30ml of water, be precise! Using a hand mixer blend the water in. Add extra water as needed in 5ml increments. You want a stiff icing that flows into itself slowly. This way it will be easy to pipe, but won’t run everywhere.
- Divide the icing into three equal batches, I weighed mine.
- Add red and green paste to two of the batches.
- Fit three piping bags with piping nozzles, I used no. 3 nozzles and put the icing into each of these bags.
- Get creative and get decorating!
- Leave to set solid and thread each decoration with ribbon.
Time to hang them on the tree!
Oh and did anyone spot my little helper in the pictures?