I know what you’re thinking. She’s gone completely mad – Christmas is miles off. Well, I won’t argue with you on the first part. I think I have probably always been at least a little bit mad. I blame my parents. And Christmas? Not as far in the distant future as you might think, my friends. As of today, the 15th October, it is 70 days to be exact. Admittedly still a little early to be talking about it for most, but I learnt two years ago that it is never too early to begin The Twelve Bakes of Christmas. My poor family, namely my mother dearest, also learnt two years ago that it is never too early to begin The Twelve Bakes of Christmas. I had a fully-fledged emotional meltdown trying to squeeze the final few bakes in last time. So this year I am going into this fully prepared, with plenty of time to spare.
In case you are unaware, I am spending this year working in a boarding school in the beautiful English countryside. And between the day-to-day boarding house tasks that the role entails, I am lucky in that I do find a few spare minutes each week to bake for and with the girls I look after. Super handy, as it stops me from munching the whole lot myself. Plus baking is exponentially better when you have people to bake for. Especially the tiny human kind, who don’t mind if the presentation isn’t your best!
Evident from the running commentary from various kids about how much ginger biscuits suck during Thursday break time each week, we decided that purely ginger flavoured gingerbread men might not be the optimal route to go down. So we browsed the Google and unearthed a delightfully chocolatey recipe on the BBC Good Food website instead. The end result was essentially a chocolate biscuit with feathery ginger undertones. Were I to bake these for adults, I would definitely up the ginger content to two tablespoons to give it a bit more pizzazz. But this subtle version was perfect for its youthful recipients.
Another lesson learnt – while the we thought that shop-bought icing might save us time, it was, in fact, entirely useless and incredibly irritating to work with. More like gel than icing. So my advice would be to make your own. I certainly will be in future. That being said, the end result was an adorable army of mini chocolate gingerbread men, thoroughly enjoyed by all who consumed them.
This BBC Good Food Recipe makes about 30 small gingerbread men. I would anticipate about half the amount if you were to use a regular-sized cookie cutter.
300g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1tbsp ground ginger
120g butter, cubed
120g soft brown sugar
140g golden syrup
decorations (smarties, icing, etc..)
- Pre-heat your oven to 180 °C.
- In a food processor, blitz the flour, butter, cocoa powder, butter, and sugar together until fully combined and crumb-like.
- Drizzle in the golden syrup (we didn’t have enough golden syrup in the cupboard, so used a honey/syrup combo, which worked marvellously!) and mix until it reaches a doughy consistency. You’ll be able to tell as the mixture will become darker, and come away from the sides of the bowl.
- On a lightly-floured surface, and with a flour-dusted rolling pin to avoid a sticky situation, evenly roll out the dough to approximately the thickness of a pound coin (about 3mm for you non-Brits!).
- Cut out your gingerbread friends using a cookie cutter, and transfer to a baking parchment-lined baking tray. Cook for 8 – 12 minutes (8 minutes gives you a chewier biscuit, while a few minutes more will deliver more of a crunch). Don’t worry too much if the cookies don’t seem firm enough when you take them out, as they will harden as they cool. The key is not to burn the little critters, as it’s hard to tell when they have browned sufficiently because of their dark chocolatey colour!
- Allow to cool completely before decorating with icing and chocolate sweets!
Either munch there and then, or pop a few in a celophane bag, seal with a red ribbon, and hey presto – xmas goodie bag done!
Check out #CAKE’s bakes of Christmas past:
The Twelve Bakes of Christmas 2013
Snow-Dipped Ginger Snaps
Mini Mince Pies
Stained-Glass Window Biscuits
Speedy Figgy Pudding
Orange Tea Loaf
Peanut Butter Fudge
Festive Sausage Plait
Bûche de Noël