Most holiday traditions incorporate gingerbread in some capacity, and while you might ordinarily leave it to the kiddos to cut out and frost, this recipe and its ultra glam touches, from Jane Hornby’s What to Bake & How to Bake It ($26, amazon.com), is well suited to a swanky holiday party.
For a chic topping, follow her recipe for royal icing (below), or extend the life of your gingerbread man by making it into an ornament. Ready to try out some of the most innovative gingerbread around?
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus firming and cooling Baking time: 9 –11 minutes per batch Makes: about 14 gingerbread men, or 24 smaller shapes
For the cookies 1 stick (½ cup) butter, plus extra for greasing 1 packed cup dark brown sugar 1/3 cup golden syrup, such as Lyle’s, or corn syrup 1 egg 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling 1 tsp baking soda 1 tbsp ground ginger 2 tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp salt
To decorate 12/3 cups confectioners’ sugar 1 egg white or 2 tbsp lemon juice (see Tip) sparkles or dragees (optional)
1. Put the butter, sugar, and syrup in a large pan, then gently heat until the butter has melted. Beat the egg.
2. Let cool for 5 minutes, then beat the egg into the pan. Mix the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt, then sift into the saucepan. Stir together to make a shiny dough.
3. Turn out the dough onto the work surface, split it in half, then knead briefly to make 2 smooth balls. Squash into flat disks, wrap well in plastic wrap, then chill in the fridge until firm (this will take about 2 hours, or you can leave it overnight).
4. When ready to bake, grease 2 baking sheets with a little butter, then line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly flour the work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes and carefully lift them onto the lined sheets, giving each cookie plenty of space. Squash together, re-roll, and cut out the trimmings. You’ll find the cookies come out of the cutter cleanly if you dip the cutter in a little flour first.
5. For softer cookies, bake for 9 minutes, or until golden all over (they will rise a little in the oven, then flatten out), or for cookies with snap, bake for 11 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Re-use the sheets for the rest of the dough.
6. To make the icing, separate the egg (see page 127) and put the white in a clean bowl. Sift the confectioners’ sugar on top, stir it in slowly at first to incorporate, then beat well until smooth. To decorate, either drizzle teaspoons of the icing over your cookies, or spoon it into a disposable pastry bag or food storage bag, snip off the very end and use it to pipe patterns. Decorate with sparkles or degrees, if you like.
7. Let the icing set for about 1 hour or until firm and dry, before eating, hanging on the tree, or packing into an airtight container.
Tree Decorations To make your cookies into Christmas tree decorations, punch a hole in the cooked dough (while still hot) using a plastic drinking straw or small pastry bag tip, or something like a pointy chopstick. Take care when handling the hot dough. Thread with ribbon to hang from the tree.
Royal Icing Icing made with egg white is known as royal icing. It has a bright whiteness to it, and sets very firmly. You can use store-bought pasteurized egg whites if you are concerned about using raw eggs, or replace the egg white with lemon juice instead. Start with 2 tablespoons, then add more if needed.