Disclaimer: I’m no gingerbread expert. It was actually my very first attempt at the real deal, cookie cutters, piping bag and all! And they were so pretty, I couldn’t help but snap heaps of pics to share! So here goes…
It’s the silly season, and as mentioned in my last post, I’d spent a lovely day with friends making and decorating Christmas cookies together. Having never been one to go all out at this time of year (my idea of a great Christmas Day dessert is my heavenly Sour Cream
Cheesecake – to be shared some other day)… but this time I was inspired.
Using my baking Bible, I dutifully mixed up the dough. Although somehow missing the quintessential mixed spice in my pantry, this was easily remedied by adding extra amounts of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Once combined, I found the dough to be quite sticky, and would recommend kneading extra flour in until it feels soft but not sticky. This way, it is sturdy enough to pick up after rolling and cutting. Otherwise, you may end up with what I call ‘dancing stars’ – a little deformed, but still tasty!
My favourite steps by far were the glaze and piping. Painting on the glaze with a pastry brush was just like painting anything (e.g. a picture frame?), and I do like my art and craft! I left the glaze to set overnight before attempting the rest of the decorating.
The piping was a little bit more complicated. Not owning a piping bag presented just a tiny little complication, but one which was soon overcome with a quick Google search and a video on how to make your own piping bag – voila!
Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F/ Gas 5). Lightly grease two baking trays, and line with baking paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder, ground ginger and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre, add the egg and treacle and, using a wooden spoon, stir until a soft dough forms. Transfer to a clean surface and knead in extra flour until smooth (and not sticky).
Divide the dough in half and roll out on a lightly floured work surface until 5 mm ( ¼ in) thick. Using various-shaped cutters (hearts, stars or flowers), cut into desired shapes, then transfer to the prepared trays.
Bake in batches for 8 minutes, or until the biscuits are light brown. Cool on the trays for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (If using the biscuits as hanging decorations, use a skewer to make a small hole in each one while still hot.)
To make the glaze, whisk the egg white and lemon juice together until foamy, then whisk in the icing sugar to form a smooth, thin icing. Cover the surface with plastic wrap until needed.
To make the royal icing, lightly whisk the egg white until just foamy, then gradually whisk in enough icing sugar to form a soft icing. Cover the surface with plastic wrap until needed.
Brush a thin layer of glaze over some of the biscuits and leave to set for a few hours, or overnight. Using an icing bag filled with royal icing, decorate the biscuits.
Taken from ‘Baking – a common sense guide’ published by Family Circle (2008)