It’s funny how you just associate certain things with Christmas, isn’t it? That there are certain activities we do, or clothes we wear or even things we eat and drink that only seem appropriate for a couple of weeks out of the year? Like Baileys? Peppermint Hot Chocolate? Prosecco for breakfast (oh, that last one is just me then…?) I remember when living in France how thrilled I was to find that mulled wine is not considered a Christmas treat at all, but something they regularly drink in the Winter to keep warm at social events. It was like a revelation to me – why on earth would you limit yourself to consuming something you love on only a few key dates? Why should Pimms and Ice Cream be reserved for Summer events? Since when was cinnamon only allowed to be used in December? So I’ve decided to hell with that! Which is how this post came to be.
I like to bake at Christmas – mainly because I like to do something personal for my loved ones that shows I care, and I’ve always thought there is no better way of caring for someone than feeding them! But also because it’s nice to have some treats to offer when you have so many people dropping by the house, so I’ve always made a point of ensuring I have something homemade to hand, and it just always seems to turn out to be gingerbread! It’s partly because it’s an incredibly easy and pretty quick thing to whip up, and largely uses ingredients you’re likely to have to hand if you’re a keen baker – otherwise they are all very easy to come by. But it is also the warm, nostalgic flavour that has me coming back to it every year, so it’s becoming a tradition of sorts. It’s taken me a few years to perfect the flavour I was looking for – something that is a bit of a signature for me (my sister in law always bakes us chocolate chip cookies for Christmas, and they’ve become legendary in our family, which I love!) and this year I really felt like I nailed it. So I’d made a mental note to remember to post about it next year in the run up to Christmas. But in the spirit of not abiding by silly rules about what is and isn’t strictly a festive treat I decided to go ahead and post it anyway – because there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy these all year round! In fact, they got eaten pretty quickly and I’ve been hankering for them ever since, so I might even whip up another batch myself!!
Technically, I think this recipe is more like the German lebkuchen than classic gingerbread, so has that nice, soft and squishy centre – but the flavours I’ve tweaked to make it my own! Hope you enjoy!
250g plain flour
85g ground almonds
3 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml honey or golden syrup
A pinch each of nutmeg and ground cloves
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 2 oranges
For the icing:
Juice of 2 oranges
150g icing sugar
First, melt the butter and the honey or syrup together on a low heat, then leave to cool a little. Tip the rest of the ingredients into a bowl, then add the butter and honey. Mix well (you’re gonna have to get your hands sticky for this bit if you don’t have a mixer!) until a firm dough is formed. Set aside to cool for around 30 mins.
Preheat your oven to 180c/Gas 4 and prep two baking trays with sheets of baking parchment. Sprinkle your work surface with a little flour to avoid sticking, then get to rolling your dough flat – I found it easier to break the dough into two halves as you get quite a lot out of this mix. Once baked, the biscuits will rise a little so bear this in mind, but the thicker you roll, the softer the centre will be. I’d look to go no thinner than around 1cm thick, but a thinner dough will give you a crisper finish. Once rolled out, use a cutter – I’ve gone for a fairly small star shape here as it’s festive and nicely bite sized – to start cutting out your biscuits, laying them on the try as you go. The size I used gives you around 50 biscuits, but you can go as big or small as you want! You will need to re-roll the dough each time you run out of space until it’s all used. Leave a little space between each on the tray to expand, though if your dough is firm enough you should find they keep their shape and don’t spread too much! Bake for 15 minutes (don’t be put off if they don’t go brown, these look quite pale when they come out).
For the icing, whisk the two ingredients together until smooth – I prefer more of a coating rather than a thick icing so with these amounts the consistency should be fairly runny, but you can thicken up according to your tastes by adding more icing sugar. Brush on to your biscuits with a pastry brush – I find 3 or 4 coats works quite nicely, but again, it can be adjusted according to how much of a sweet tooth you have!
Where possible, when cutting your biscuits, try to avoid cracks in the dough as this will make the structure more fragile when baked. A few of mine snapped in half when adding the icing as I’d been lazy when rolling my dough! That did mean I got to eat them though, so….
Anyone else’s tummy rumbling right now?!