The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 26 November 2012

Gingerbread Men

Last Tuesday on our way to my 4-year-old's gym class, I pointed out some Christmas-themed gingerbread decorations around the mall. He immediately recited part of the gingerbread man song ("Run, run, as fast as you can! You'll never catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!") and said he wanted some gingerbread men. I promised him we would make some on the following weekend, and the kid was really looking forward to it. So much so that he declared to hubby that we were going to make gingerbread men on the weekend quite a few times during the week. Despite the frequent reminders, in the midst of the frenzy that is my life during the week, I actually forgot all about it until my boy piped up on Saturday morning that it's the weekend, and we were going to make gingerbread men. I hadn't done my usual research for recipes, so I quickly did an internet search, spotted a well-rated and well-reviewed recipe from (a trusted Australian recipe website), printed out the recipe, and off we went on a trip to the supermarket (one of the many times I've been so thankful that the supermarket is just downstairs, and open from 8am to 11pm!). There weren't any gingerbread man cookie cutter at the supermarket, so the baking was delayed until the afternoon when I could source one. The things we do for our kids! But it was well worth it because the boy had a great fun mixing the ingredients together, and then cutting out the little men for baking - but I think he enjoyed eating them more than all the previous steps! The recipe states that the recipe makes 20, but I think the cookie dough proved too yummy to resist because we only made 14! The baked gingerbread men were delicious undecorated, but we managed to resist a few so that we could decorate them.

Some gingerbread men cooling down:

The recipe is almost verbatim from the website, with a couple of modifications. I used whole wheat plain flour, which required a tablespoon more golden syrup to help bind the dough. The dough was still a little dry, but I kneaded until it was as smooth as I could get it, and I managed to roll it out without crumbling. I didn't have 'mixed spice', but I used a generous heaped tablespoon of ground ginger, which gave the right spicy kick. I also used a pasteurised egg which meant that the dough was safe to eat raw, but I couldn't get the white to whip for the icing (turns out that some lemon juice or cream of tartar would have helped get pasteurised egg white to whip). Instead I made plain icing with just icing (or confectioner's) sugar and a tiny amount of water. I am quite against using food colouring in my cooking, and my boy is allergic to a number of things that Smarties or M&M's may contain traces of, so the decoration was plain white. It did the job, and my boy was perfectly happy with the gingerbread men. This is a fun baking activity for kids, but it requires close supervision and lots of help (especially with the electric mixer and the hot oven). Hubby, boy and I enjoyed this family project together, especially the eating part! We will probably make more to give away to his friends closer to Christmas time.

Run, run, as fast as you can!

Gingerbread Men

Butter, to grease
105g butter, at room temperature
90g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
1 egg, separated
325g (2 1/3 cups) plain flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


1. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 2 baking trays with butter.

3. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use a 9cm gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.

4. Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.

5. Prepare the icing with 50g icing sugar and start with a teaspoon of warm water. Stir well, and add more icing or water to a stiff consistency. Decorate the gingerbread men (I used a piping tube, but a ziploc bag with a small nip in the corner would suffice).

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