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How to make Gingerbread Biscuits

No one is too young or too old to enjoy making gingerbread biscuits. The smell of orange, ginger and mixed spice wafting through the house on a cold wintery day is completely enticing.

Perfect gingerbread: From people to entire villages, let your imagination run wild. Gingerbread can be cut into every shape imaginable and decorated as delicately or as gaudily as you like. Now is the right time to make gingerbread that will last right up until Christmas Day.

If you’re of a mature and civilised persuasion, gingerbread biscuits are lovely dunked in a cup of tea in the morning. For the rest of us, they can be cut into every shape imaginable and decorated as delicately or as gaudily as you like.

Younger children might want to use cutters to make sure their biscuits have a recognisable shape. They can go to town with brightly coloured icing, sprinkles and baubles. The sky is the limit for older bakers. From gingerbread people and animals, to entire gingerbread villages, you can let your imagination run wild.

My daughters get very excited about the prospect of building a gingerbread house. After the photoshoot for these ginger biscuits was over, they picked up the piping bags and started giving the gingerbread ladies perms and elaborate hairstyles.

To cut out gingerbread biscuits freehand, or using homemade stencils, use a sharp knife to get the cleanest lines. Once the biscuits are cool, they can be adorned with ready-made fondant icing, crisply piped royal icing, nuts, sweets, candied peel or dried fruits. Gingerbread house constructions can be held together with thick lines of royal icing. Vertical joints will need to be supported for a few minutes until the icing starts to set. The only remaining conundrum is how to stop eating pieces of the gingerbread architecture every time you pass by.

About now is the right time to make gingerbread. The addition of golden syrup creates a hard gingerbread as opposed to softer gingerbread cookies. The hard dough will ensure the cookies can be admired on the tree and still just about last right up until Christmas Day.


GINGERBREAD BISCUITS WITH ROYAL ICING


Gingerbread Dough
150g brown muscovado sugar
150g golden syrup
1 tsp mixed spice (or allspice)
1 tbsp ground ginger
½ orange, zest and juice
200g butter, cut into cubes
400g self raising flour, sieved
Royal Icing
250g icing sugar, sieved
2 egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice


Method:

  1. Place the muscovado sugar, golden syrup, mixed spice, ground ginger, orange zest and juice into a saucepan.  On a high heat, bring the contents of the pan to a simmer stirring well. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter.  Add in the flour and use a wooden spoon to mix to a dough consistency.  Allow to cool slightly then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes before rolling it out. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan.
  3. On a lightly floured surface roll the ginger dough out to a 4mm thickness, before stamping out shapes with cookie cutters. Alternatively, use a sharp knife to cut out shapes.
  4. Place the dough cut outs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving space between them. Refrigerating them for 10 minutes before baking will help them hold their shapes during baking.
  5. Preheat an oven to 180 Celsius, fan, or equivalent. Bake for 12-15 minutes (smaller shapes may only need 10 minutes) or until the edges are beginning to darken in colour. Remove from the oven and leave them to sit for one minute (at this point you could stick a skewer in the top of each biscuit so they can be threaded with ribbon or string and hung from the Christmas tree). Next, carefully lift them up with a palette knife and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. To make the icing: Place the sieved icing sugar into a large mixing bowl with the egg white and lemon juice.  Start mixing on the lowest speed until combined, then increase the mixing speed, whisking for about 4 minutes until the icing has a firm satin-like consistency (add in a drop or two of lemon juice if it looks very dry or too stiff for piping). 
  7. Place half the royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle with a pen tip size opening.  Place the remaining icing in a second piping bag with a larger nozzle or use a scissors to snip an opening to your required size.
  8. To decorate the gingerbread shapes with thin lines of icing, place three quarters of the icing in a piping bag fitted with a pen tip sized nozzle. Use any remaining icing to fill between lines.
  9. Allow iced biscuits to set for at least 30 minutes.

 

Variation
For a paper piping bag, take a small rectangle of parchment paper and fold it diagonally to create a thin tipped funnel – use a scissors to snip an opening to your required size.

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