Christmas Baking

Since most of my current craft projects are top-secret at the moment, I thought I would share some festive baking I have been doing today (with decorating entertainment courtesy of the awesome film Elf). I’m going to take most of them into work tomorrow, but I will save a few for a festive fun day-off on Tuesday.Baking

The recipe is my tried-and-tested gingerbread recipe, with a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon added for extra winter-warming. I tried to make reindeer biscuits, but the legs and antlers didn’t make the journey to the baking tray. Disappointing since I spent earlier in the afternoon sorting packets of Smarties to find the red ones (and an interesting lesson in random probability – some packets contained only 2 red sweets, others contained 8). I suppose they might not have got on with the penguins.

Christmas biscuits

I still have lots of knitting and sewing to do (I decided one of the things I made wasn’t up-to-scratch when I put the elements together, so I am re-making another version). How are your festive plans going?

Gingerbread penguins at the zoo

I haven’t actually written any baking-related posts yet, so it is definitely time I did. I went to Zoo Lates at London Zoo for my birthday yesterday, and so had to rustle up my fail-safe recipe – gingerbread animals! To quote my housemate “it is the best gingerbread recipe I’ve used, it always work really well” so I’m going to share it with everyone.

This is a recipe I have used for years, originally from The Australian Women’s Weekly Beautiful Biscuits book, changing it slightly as the recipe calls for cups which I don’t have. This version is really old (probably as old as me) but there are lots of new Australian Women’s Weekly books, although I don’t know if they have the same recipes.

Gingerbread men/animals/birds/etc

Ingredients:

4oz butter
3oz brown sugar
1 egg yolk (save the egg white for icing or meringues)
12oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tbsp golden syrup

Method:

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg yolk. Sift all the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the mix, then add the syrup (sometimes you need more syrup or less flour, depending on how much mixture has been “tested”). Knead the mixture lightly until you have a good firm dough. You can put the dough in the fridge to firm up for an hour or overnight to make it easier to roll.

Take a lump of dough (maybe a quarter of the mix) and roll it between two sheets of greaseproof paper. This makes it easier to roll as nothing gets stuck to the rolling pin. Roll the dough to 1/2cm or so thick, and cut out your shapes.

Place shapes on a greased tray and cook in a moderate oven (180oC is usually pretty good) for about 10 minutes until the biscuits are golden but not too crunchy – they will harden up as they cool, so make sure you don’t over-cook them. Remove them from the tray and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

To serve:

Depending on the cutters you use, you can decorate with melted chocolate (melt tiny pieces in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave) or icing, sprinkles, chocolates, sweeties, etc.

To make royal icing take the egg white and add icing sugar. Keep beating and adding more icing sugar until you have a good consistency. I never measure the sugar, I just do it by eye as it changes if you are using liquid or paste colouring. If you are using a piping bag the icing needs to be pretty thick so that the shapes hold.

My new cake-stand (not sure it is quite right for large gingerbread animals)

Penguins, bears, foxes/red pandas and a T-Rex

Gingerbread elephant