I made a delicious gingerbread for Christmas a few years ago, but do you think I could find the recipe last year when I needed it? I went through every recipe book I own before I eventually settled on an offering from Donna Hay and adapted it a little to suit our dietary requirements.
This gingerbread recipe was delicious to eat, but I won’t lie – it was a tad fiddly at the cutter stage. There was a lot of running back and forth between the fridge (it was a hot day) to firm the dough up. I was worried the cookies would come out of the oven all floppy, but they did firm up after cooking and once the icing went on everything was fine.
Icing wise, I use this recipe from the fabulous Callye over at the Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle. She’s the cookie decorator who inspired me to give cookie decorating a go. I also use her sugar cookie recipe when I’m not making gingerbread, and I’ve never regretted either decision. The thing I love about royal icing, more than anything else, is that it’s delicious. Finger licking, cookie hoarding, hair pulling delicious.
When it comes to piping techniques, you are really only limited by your imagination. I learnt what little I know from online tutorials and my own experimentation. I think the most important thing is using the correct icing consistency for the job, and then piping the cookie in sections. If it’s a more complex design, then drawing onto the cookie with a food safe pen before you start icing is a great option.
The three dimensional sleighs were fun and quite simple. You can buy purpose made cutters, but all I did was use my normal sleigh cutter and then slice panels of gingerbread dough to match the sizes I needed for a base and the two ends. Bake, decorate and then glue together with some extra royal icing and voila! I did buy some shimmer powder to spruce them up a bit but I ran out of time, so they stayed plain. Once the popcorn went in they looked fantastic!
The cookie garland was awesome fun. I cut the required number of cookies from the dough with my round cutter and then made a hole in the top with a straw. After they baked and were iced, the cookies were strong enough to hang nicely from crafter’s twine, which I then tied to a length of thicker string and (with a little help) strung it from the roof. It was a pretty simple idea which drew a lot of comments!
Adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay
- 125g butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup golden syrup
- 2 1/2 cups gluten free plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarb (baking) soda
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp dried coriander
- Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy.
- Add the golden syrup, flour, bicarb and spices and let the mixer work until a smooth dough forms.
- Turn the dough out and divide it in half. Roll each half out between two sheets of baking paper until approx 5mm thick. If you are unsure, thicker is easier to work with. Place the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius (or 140 fan forced). Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper and prepare your cookie cutters by dipping the edges in a little flour to prevent them sticking.
- Remove one sheet of dough from the fridge and cut out the cookie shapes, re-dipping the cutter in flour between each use. Use a spatula or flat bladed knife to ease the cookies off the baking paper and get them onto the baking trays. Work quickly, because the dough softens fast.
- Re-roll the leftover dough and put it back in the fridge to firm up while you repeat step 5 with the other sheet of dough. Continue step 5 and 6 until all the cookies are cut and the dough is gone.
- Bake the cookies for 12 minutes and then check them – you want them to be firm but not too dark in colour. Leave them in a couple minutes more if they are not ready. Keep in mind that bigger shapes will take longer to cook, and smaller shapes will be done faster. If you are planning to decorate the cookies with royal icing, you want a gentler textured biscuit so that guests can actually bite them. If you are looking for a crisp, standalone gingerbread, then you may prefer to bake the cookies longer.
- Allow the cookies to cool slightly (this helps them firm up a little more) and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
- Decorate as you please, and enjoy!
Store the cookies in an airtight container between sheets of baking paper until you are ready to decorate them, then again until you are ready to eat them. They will keep for a couple of weeks this way without an adverse effect on the flavour.
As mentioned above, I use this recipe for my royal icing.
This recipe works great with different types of butter and milk, depending on your food allergies. I haven’t tried it with a sugar substitute, but if you buy one that is swapped out cup for cup it should be no problem. As always, if you need more information, feel free to check out my substitution guidelines.