The lovely Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort, who organises The Kitchen Reader book club, kindly suggested that we bake a Christmas cookie that means something to us and post about it this month instead of reading a book. This is a relief, because I have no idea where I'd find the time to read and review a book this month.
Whether this be strange or not, baking biscuits is not a Christmas tradition for my family, so there is not a particular family Christmas cookie recipe that I can share. Accordingly, I have decided instead to share a recipe from my recent tradition of baking for friends as Christmas gifts. The recipes that I choose to make for friends are important to me because I have selected them as something that captures my imagination sufficiently that I believe it would make an enjoyable gift.
In this case, I have chosen to post about the gingerbread men that I made as "gifts" for our work bake sale, which was held to raise money for the Salvation Army Christmas appeal. There are many, many recipes for gingerbread men; however, I chose to make the recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook, because other people have spoken highly of this book, and it is a recent acquisition for me that I wanted to trial.
The recipe made an industrial quantity (48) gingerbread men, so I halved it and still ended up with 32 gingerbread men (presumably because some of mine were a little thinner than they were supposed to be). I didn't taste these myself because I donated them all to the bake sale, but I was reliably informed that they were popular sellers - surely the word would have spread if they weren't good? Their popularity leads me to assume that this was a good gingerbread men recipe, and I can say that they smelled wonderful while baking. (Also, next day, a director told me that her children liked them and wanted more.)
When decorating the gingerbread people (because that it what I must hereafter call them), I made little girls:
and little boys:
and paired them together for sale purposes.
I am sure that you have your own special gingerbread recipe, but in case you want to try this one, a half batch requires the following ingredients:
550g plain flour
2 1/2 g salt
2 1/2g baking soda
7 1/2g ground ginger
2 1/2g ground cinnamon
2 1/2g ground nutmeg
200g brown sugar
160g golden syrup or honey
2 egg yolks
Sift the flour, baking soda and spices together into a bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and golden syrup together until light and creamy. Add the egg and egg yolks into the mixture as a stream, still beating, and mix until well combined. Turn the mixer speed to low, and add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches until just combined.
(I needed way more flour than the recipe required to get a workable dough. Originally, I thought that the softness of my dough would be counteracted by chilling, but I found that I still had to add more flour to get a dough stiff enough to roll out.)
Divide the dough into 2 and flatten each piece into a disc, and chill for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and soften slightly, then roll out each disc between 2 sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 3mm. Cut out gingerbread people using an appropriate cookie cutter, and place each biscuit onto a baking tray lined with baking paper or a silicone mat.
Bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove the baked biscuits from the oven, and allow them to cool on the trays. (This helps to prevent them from warping, bending, breaking or becoming marked, which may happen if you move them.)
Once the gingerbread people are cool, pipe features on with royal icing and decorate with lollies if you like. For the boys, I stuck on Skittle buttons with royal icing, and for the girls, I gave them sugar heart necklaces, and dresses and hair ribbons made of sliced musk sticks.
For more great Christmas cookie ideas from the other Kitchen Readers, go to the Kitchen Reader blogroll.