Gingerbread makes me so happy. I don’t care if it’s a gingerbread man, woman, star, stocking or tree. The smell is so festive and the taste takes me back to being a kid! I didn’t have homemade gingerbread growing up, my mum wasn’t a baker at all and my nan stuck to Italian breads (which were phenomenal by the way), so shop bought gingerbread tantalised my tastes from an early age.
When I first got into baking back in 2010, it was in November so it wasn’t long before I enjoyed my first, homemade gingerbread shapes! I wrote the recipe down in my notebook and it’s the one I have used for the past six years every Christmas (and sometimes just because I fancied some!).
I realised I hadn’t written this recipe up on my website, so I made some this week and set about documenting for my blog as I usually do. However, with a little research I have realised the recipe I have transferred from notebook to notebook each year, the one I swear by and use all the time isn’t mine!
Back in the early days of my baking adventure I used a lot of recipes I found online, not getting the confidence to make my own until a few years later. It turns out ‘my’ trusted gingerbread recipe belongs to the BBC Good Food website! On further inspection too, it turns out that so many gingerbread recipes available on the internet are exactly the same as this one, and some are identical with only a few grams difference either side on a couple of ingredients.
This says to me this is a known, trusted and great recipe, and who am I to mess with greatness? What you’ll find below are my top tips to create festive gingerbread shapes at home. You can find the recipe here.
Make the dough as instructed. Firstly mixing together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger, then adding the butter and making a mix that resembles breadcrumbs. Then, mix together the egg and golden syrup and add this to the mix, finally adding in the sugar (not pictured).
My tips for getting a good dough are to have the butter the right temperature. Too cold and the dough will struggle to form, too soft and it will be hard to get the dough into a ball. Take it out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before using. We don’t want it room temperature, but we don’t want it fridge temperature either! Then, wrap the dough in cling film and I like to chill mine for 20 minutes or so before rolling out.
Then, when it comes to rolling out the dough, dust a side with a little plain flour and knead the gingerbread a few times before rolling, this will make it easier to roll and shouldn’t crack as much. I like to use these marzipan spacers to make sure I have evenly rolled dough. Then, pop your shapes on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 180°C for 12-15 minutes.
Once baked, leave them on a wire rack to cool.
When it comes to decorating gingerbread shapes, the only limit as they say, is your imagination. You can use anything you like to decorate them, sugarpaste, chocolate or most commonly royal icing. Now, I make no secret about the fact I don’t like royal icing that much. It was never something I wanted to learn or get better at as I have shaky hands and not a lot of patience. I would much rather model something than pipe something and over the past 6 years have only really used it as a glue, sticking down my cakes to their boards and sticking on decorations. That said, I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for those who are brilliant with royal icing and I can watch videos on it all day long! (A special mention to SweetAmbs who blows my mind with her talent! Go check out her cookie work).
You can of course make your own royal icing, there are lots of recipes readily available online or you can buy it ready made, which is what I usually use. But today I’m using Whitworths Royal Icing Sugar. I’m also using a disposable piping bag and a 2.5 nozzle.
Then the rest is up to you! Dots, lines, outlines, squiggles, smarties, sprinkles – however you want to decorate your ginger shapes! It doesn’t have to be perfect, just have fun with it!
Once the royal icing has set, store in a cake tin and enjoy within a week!
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