Sunday, 25 May 2008

Gingerbread

I made one of my favourite things today – gingerbread. Not only is it really yummy but cutting the shapes and decorating them is fun too.

This is a slightly odd biscuit/cookie since it is made differently in every country. Traditionally in northern Europe it’s a softer biscuit, and further south it’s a more like a ginger snap. In the 1600’s Nuremberg’s (in Germany) Lebkuchen was so good it was used as currency to pay the city’s taxes!
While gingerbread men (and women) are commonly made, a popular use around Christmas time is making gingerbread houses. Inspiring the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, there are some amazing creations. Here’s my favourite; I love that the decorations is almost all icing. The ‘snow’ on the roof is particularly good.

It’s from the The Gingerbread Book, Ed. Allen D. Bragdon, New York: Arco Publishing, 1984. I actually intended to make one myself for the first time last Christmas, but was too busy. I’m definitely doing this year though.

My recipe is another school book source. It makes biscuits that are quite soft, but can be made crispy by leaving them in the oven for another few minutes.

350g Plain flour
110g Margarine
175g Demerara sugar
4 tbsp Golden Syrup
1 Lightly beaten egg
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Cinnamon

1) Preheat the oven to 190 C and grease two baking trays
2) Mix flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon
3) Rub in the margarine, or mix in a food processor until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs
4) Stir in the sugar
5) Beat the golden syrup into the egg. If you dip the spoon into hot water, it’ll come off the spoon really easily.
6) Add this to the dry mixture and knead into a dough. It’ll seem too dry but will come together.
Normal dough on the left, treacle on the right
7) Roll out and cut out shapes.

8) Bake for around 12-15 minutes.

There’s a lot of ways to vary this recipe to suit your tastes.
Here I made half with the normal golden syrup, and half with treacle to see what would happen. What came out was a stronger molasses flavour and less gingery. Personally I prefer the original version, but would definitely make these again.

The recipe above is the basic one, but I normally add another teaspoon of ginger as I like the strong taste.

Changing the type of sugar also alters the outcome. I used Demerara, which gives quite a coarse texture and lets the ginger come through. Using dark brown sugar will give a finer texture, but might overwhelm the ginger flavour. It really depends what you like.
Here's my crowd shot

I just did a few quick decorations with chocolate and sugarpaste, but the only limit is your imagination :) ‘Hair’ can be chocolate sprinkles, desiccated coconut, chocolate or raisins.

I made a few ‘old school’ ones.
And my brother's inspiration 'Ninjabread'

2 comments:

Ruth Elkin said...

What cute little men and women! Did you give them names? I'm sure I would have

lizzydashwood said...

I have looking for a good gingerbread recipe for ages. The fact this is from an old school book means that it should be good! I will let you know how I get on.