If you thought you weren’t getting an obligatory Christmas recipe this year, then let me remind you of the meaning of ‘obligatory’ 😉
I’ve been giving this recipe a work out lately with a bunch of festive cookies, and two special gingerbread houses (homes?!) for our dedicated Plunket staff who have been working so hard all year, giving up their time to help our volunteer committee.
So I thought I’d share the recipe along with some handy hints on gingerbread house-building (partly to remind myself for next time since I don’t create them that often!) and tips for cookie decorating with royal icing (hint: buy a premix!). And once I’ve done this year’s Christmas cookies for our family, I’ll include those at the end, so watch that space. The ones below were for a lunch after our church’s carol service, decorated with the help of a kind, cookie-loving friend.
This dough recipe is really easy, we made it with the kids at Playcentre (aged 2-5) and managed to mix the dough by hand. So I’ve included instructions and pictures below for both by-hand and food processor methods.
Gingerbread Biscuits / Houses Recipe
Adapted from the BBC. Makes approximately 30-40 medium sized biscuits or one large gingerbread house.
- 350g plain flour (approx. 2 &1/2 cups), plus extra for dusting
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 175g brown sugar (approx. 3/4 cup, firmly packed)
- 125g butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 4 Tbsp golden syrup
- 1 egg
- By hand: Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon into a large bowl, and add the brown sugar. Whisk well to combine. Food processor: Add these ingredients to the processor bowl and mix on medium speed for approximately 30 seconds or until combined.
- By hand: Add the cubes of butter to the flour mixture and use your fingers to combine them, squashing the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles small breadcrumbs. Food processor: Add the cubes of butter and mix on medium speed for around a minute or until combined.
- By hand: Combine the egg and golden syrup in a small jug and mix together as much as possible with a spoon. Make a well in the centre of the flour-butter mixture, and pour in the egg and syrup. Mix with a wooden spoon until too difficult to blend, then switch to kneading with your hands until the mixture comes together as one smooth ball. Food processor: Add the egg and golden syrup to the processor bowl and mix on medium speed until the dough balls up.
- Both methods: Tip the dough onto a bench dusted with flour and squish it together with your hands, then roll and knead it until it forms one smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in a resealable bag and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- When chilled, remove dough from fridge and roll out on flour-dusted bench to approximately 5mm thick. Using biscuit cutters or gingerbread house templates, cut out shapes and place on a lined baking tray. Gather offcuts and re-roll once more to cut out further shapes. To help the gingerbread shapes keep their shape during cooking, it’s worth refrigerating the baking tray with cut-out shapes on it for 10-15 minutes before baking. Bake at 180°C for 10 to 15 minutes – 10 mins for smaller shapes, 15 mins for larger gingerbread house panels – until biscuits are lightly golden and set on top.
- Build your house on a solid surface like a cake board, to help with wrapping and transporting your finished creation.
- Gingerbread houses don’t have to be huge – I made these two to 2/3s of my ‘full size’ stencil, (dimensions for both sizes are in the photos below). I haven’t provided a printable template because I’m lazy / I really think you should make a template on firm card to make it easier to cut the gingerbread around.
- Use a strong royal icing (i.e. with egg whites in it) to build your house and attach it to you board. Make sure you put icing on each edge that touches another edge, before you place them together, and hold them together for about 30 seconds to make sure they hold.
- Buy a royal icing premix! Just add water and have instant icing whenever you need it! If you can’t find a premix or prefer to make it yourself, this simple recipe (and anything else on the Serious Eats website) is a great start.
- As with most things in life, simple is best, especially if you have a LOT of bikkies to decorate – cough, 150, cough. Straight, connected lines are faster to do than curls and seperate strokes. Different coloured icings are effective but take time to mix up.
- Bikkies can look great with a plain iced background (created by flooding the bordered whole cookie with icing) and a different coloured pattern on top, but I find that most plain-flavoured biscuits are sufficiently blank to pipe a pattern onto directly.
- Having a friend (or two!) help with decorating a big batch of bikkies can be a super fun festive activity and makes the load much lighter (psst, thanks Emma!!)
Wishing you a joyful and restful holiday season xo