Christmas treats #1: Gingerbread Christmas Shapes

1 Dec 2015

Guys, it's finally here! It's the 1st December! This is such a beautiful day; all of life's stresses are to be put on hold the moment you eagerly open that little square marked '1' and snaffle that chocolate before breakfast. Once the countdown to Christmas has started, you are officially allowed to spend your working days staring out the window humming Christmas songs and drinking mulled wine. Check your contract, it'll say so somewhere, I assure you.

Because I am a Christmas fanatic, I'm going to be whipping up some Christmas treats in the kitchen over the next four weeks to help count you down to the big day. Week 1 is inspired by the gingerbread theme in the Christmas addition of BBC GoodFood magazine. These biscuits are crunchy on the outside, doughy on the inside and have a delicious blend of ginger and cinnamon going on. Also, who knew gingerbread was so easy to make?!

Have a great day all - 24 days to go!

For gingerbread Christmas shapes, you will need:

175g dark brown sugar
85g golden syrup
100g salted butter
350g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 egg
For the icing:
100g butter
200g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Combine the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan. Momentarily gaze at the beauty that is golden syrup and then heat under a medium heat and bubble for 1-2 minutes, stirring. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, GINGER and egg into a large bowl. Add the syrup/sugar/butter mixture and stir well to combine everything.

After a bit of stirring, a dough will start to form. This is where you chuck the spoon aside and get your hands dirty. Kneading dough is a lot of fun for big kids like us.

Once the dough is smooth, and all one colour, wrap it in cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour. Go have your lunch, read your book, wander around aimlessly; that kinda thing.

After half an hour, take the dough out of the fridge and leave for another 20 minutes. Continue to wander around aimlessly.

Heat the oven to 180c and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Cut your dough in half, leaving the other half firmly wrapped up, and dust your board and rolling pin with flour. Now get rolling! The thickness of the dough is down to your personal preference. I went for a little thicker than the recommended £1 coin thickness, but I like my gingerbread to be softer rather than crispy. Up to you.

 Now for the truly fun part; shapes! There's only one rule, they have to be Christmas themed. If you're practical, use biscuit shape cutters. Or you can use your boyfriend who apparently has a hidden talent of cutting out Christmas-themed shapes from kitchen roll. You can then use these as a shape to cut round. 

Keep cutting, moulding and rolling the dough back out again until you've used it all up. The types of shapes you decide on will determine how many biscuits you make. For reference, I made 16 stars, 8 Christmas trees and 6 snowmen. 

Cooking time will vary; I'd recommend approximately 11 minutes. Keep an eye on them and take out just before they look done. They will be soft when you take them out, but will firm up when cooled. 

So I've never done any icing before but I was like a kid at, well, Christmas. My handiwork will not be appearing on Bake Off any time soon but I'd recommend giving it a go, just for the fun. To make the icing, beat the icing sugar, butter and milk together until smooth.  

Make a piping bag by filling a sandwich bag with the icing and cutting a very small hole in the corner. Use this to gently squeeze icing onto your gingerbread, once they have cooled. 

Now, the only thing left to do is have some icing fun! Try not to snaffle the whole lot by yourself, although I'll understand if you do. We've all been there.