Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread men serve not only as a great decoration for any Christmas tree but baking them fills the house with the smell of Christmas. In my mind a gingerbread man need to be crisp, and spiced with ginger, not to soft, not cakey, the ones I remember from my childhood were hard enough to break a tooth on, that’s not what I want but there is as fine balance to be found. I tried out a few recipes and found the one using a lot of golden syrup or treacle in them went too hard, the recipe below was recommended to me by my dear friend Jody at Boolas Bakery and solved all my problems the little men turned out to be delicious.

Makes 15 – 20 biscuits

140g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper

Royal icing
250g icing sugar
1egg white
1/2 tsp lemon juice

To make the icing sift the icing sugar into a bowl place the egg white in a separate bowl and add the icing sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition, stir in the lemon juice-you should be able to squeeze the icing through a piping bag with a fine nozzle attachment.

Heat oven to 200C gas 6 line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda.

Melt butter, sugar and syrup in a pan, add this to the dry ingredients. Mix together until the mixture forms a dough, leave to rest until just cool enough to touch. The cooler the dough gets the more difficult  it is to work with so work quickly.

On a floured work surface roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Stamp out gingerbread men with a cutter, carefully  lift onto the baking sheets with a pallet knife, press the trimmings back together and roll out again. If you want to hang them on tree remember to use a straw to punch a hole in the top.

Bake for 12 mins until golden.

Leave to cool on the baking tray Ice faces on the gingerbread men to give them some personality, thread with ribbon and hang on the tree.

Ingredients

Mini Panettone’s

Now I didn’t love Panettone, until I had a good one, I think this is because I hate candied peel, and most seem to be full of it, but when the balance is right Panettone is a delicious treat and I can forgive a bit of peel (however I have left it completely out of my recipe). These mini Panettone’s are on my list of home- made goodies I will be giving to family and friends this Christmas and is pretty much a store cupboard recipe.

I used silicone rumbarba moulds bought from Habitat called poppy. I wanted a traditional scalloped shape to my Panettone in a mini form. You can easily use muffin tins or the recipe makes and large Panettone in an 8inch spring form cake tin, in both cases line with grease proof paper and brush the tops with egg and milk wash before baking. A large Panettone may need 10 minutes adding to it’s baking time.

Sunflower oil for greasing
125g dried mixed fruit
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp Grand Marnier

125ml of milk
1 level tbsp active dried yeast
50g caster sugar
450g strong white bread flour
1/2 salt
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk beaten
1tbsp honey
2tsp vanilla extract
75g butter, softened

Put the fruit in a bowl and cover with boiling water leave to soak while you make the dough

Heat the milk until warm to touch, remove from the heat and add the yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar, mix well and leave to activate about 5 minuets, the mixture will form a thick foam on top.

In a large mixing bowl add the flour remaining sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre, add the milk and yeast mixture, beaten egg, honey, vanilla, Grand Marnier and butter mix first with a wooden spoon to bring together, and the with your hands to form a smooth soft dough mix for about 5 minuets.

Drain the fruit and pat dry with kitchen paper, add to the dough along with the lemon and orange zest, mix through the dough until well distributed, turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead for 1 minute, shape in to a ball place back in the mixing bowl cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place of 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

When risen turn out on to a floured work surface and knead again for 1 minute divide up and place into the tins cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise of 1-1 1/2 hours in a warm place. Per heat oven to 170 c 325F gas 3

Bake in the bottom third of the oven for 30 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wrap in cellophane and ribbon for great homemade gifts.