Another hiatus and I’m not even going to apologise anymore – my new resolution is not to be too hard on myself and even though I’ve stretched my cooking more than I thought possible this year, it’s been rather hard keeping up the blogging habit when life and twitter and the total garbage-fire that is 2016 keeps on rollin’. I’m serious – when George Michael pegs it on Christmas day you know the creator has not only a mean sense of humour but also really really doesn’t like the bing-bong bits on “Last Christmas”.
With this in mind, escapism and christmas treats seemed to me to be a perfect idea for christmas, utilising an old gingerbread recipe I cut out of the guardian and applying a simple but effective decoration to brighten up a drizzly christmas afternoon. Much appreciated by the children and I was pretty pleased with the results too, a firm highly-spiced cookie with the mixed nuts and peel found in all the best Christmassy treats, covered by a toothsome white chocolate hat and exquisite little decorations. These look irresistible and taste fantastic too!
(recipe makes about 80 cookies but I’ll give you quantities for icing 16-18 – the rest freezes wonderfully)
note: it’s really ideal to let this dough rest and chill for a day or two before cooking, if you can, so the spices have time to melt into the dough and get more aromatic. Also, this makes a firm gingerbread – be careful with those teeth!
70g golden syrup
125g light muscovado sugar
a handful blanched almonds, chopped
50g mixed peel, chopped
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
250g plain flour, sifted
100g white chocolate
50g icing sugar
A few drops red and green food colouring paste
- First melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a pan until bubbling and smooth, mixing to ensure you’ve combined everything without lumps (I don’t know why but I find a whisk is better for this – it helps break down the sugar nicely). Cool for about 15 mins then stir in the nuts, peel and spices.
- Mix in the flour then turn out and knead until the dough is smooth, but try not to work it too much. Roll the dough into two little sausages (it will be quite greasy, but don’t worry about this) and wrap in clingfilm, and chill. You should try and give the dough at least 24 hours to do this, but 2 hours will do in a pinch. You can also wrap the clingfilmed sausage in foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 190C and line a baking sheet with parchment. Take the log out of the fridge and slice nice rounds onto the sheet about 3/4 cm thick. If you’ve taken it from the freezer, give it 30 min to soften a little and use a sharp knife! Bake for around 8-12 min on the sheet (depending on whether or not they were chilled or frozen) until firm and browned. As there’s no raising agent they won’t really change size or shape much, so keep an eye on them.
- As an aside, if you want to, this dough can be rolled out to form lovely shapes if you like – just be aware that pointy bits on biscuits cook through faster and can scorch.
- Cool completely on a baking sheet. The biscuits will come out of the oven quite soft but will firm considerably while they cool.
- To decorate, melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water and keep relatively warm. Dip the biscuits in one by one to form the little “cap” of chocolate over the top third of each cookie, and leave to firm up in a cool place. If you’re showing off you could temper the chocolate to leave it shiny and impressive-looking, but I’m assuming that you’re cooking for friends and family rather than being judged by Mary Berry, so I wouldn’t bother, personally.
- Divide the icing sugar into two little bowls and mix with just a few drops of water to form a thick paste, colouring one green and the other red.
- Put each mixture into a little piping bag (or, in a pinch, a sandwich bag) and cut the very tip off to form a tiny opening. Pipe little leaves in green on each cookie together with a few dots of red to form a tiny holly trim for each cookie. Let the icing dry off in the air. Then serve with a smug little smile!