I am combatting the current freeze by keeping busy in the kitchen with warming spices and the oven almost permanently on. I said in the last post that I was embracing Christmas in a big way this year and so, in-between various writing assignments I have been making gingerbread reindeer and some stained glass stars that can be hung on the tree (if you remember to poke holes in them when they come out of the oven – I forgot for one tray, so they’re just pretty star cookies, rather than decorations.)
These cookies are surprisingly addictive. I had several with tea this afternoon. They also make great gifts, if you know people who appreciate a good cookie. And they make your kitchen smell heavenly.
It’s a fairly simple melt-and-mix method that I adapted from The Primrose Bakery Book. You can ice the stars and reindeer if you like. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to yet. I quite like the plain biscuits but I suppose that iced ones will add to the festive cheer. And you can obviously make any shape that takes your fancy. I’m rather enamoured with the reindeer cutter as I bought it in Finland two Christmases ago and haven’t had the opportunity to use it yet. (I’ve started to buy obscure cookie cutters from places I visit. I have a Moomin one from the same trip too. I need someone to have a Moomin themed birthday so I can use it. And a friend bought me one of a church in Austria that I also haven’t had cause to use yet. So many shaped biscuit options!)
I like this recipe because it is reminiscent of actual gingerbread and not simply some ground ginger and cinnamon added in to a basic cookie mixture. There are cloves, nutmeg and orange zest too. And it uses both golden syrup and black treacle. For reasons I can’t entirely explain, I get a small thrill every time I open these tins to bake something. I suspect it has to do with my cousin Tim always referring to golden syrup simply as “the tin with the lion on it” and I get a whiff of nostalgia for our summer Christmases on the farm whenever I think of it.
Gingerbread Reindeer (and Stars)
Adapted from The Primrose Bakery Book
75g soft light brown sugar
50g golden syrup
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground gloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
zest of 1/2 a small orange
100g unsalted butter
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
(If you’re making stained glass stars, you’ll need approximately 5-8 hard boiled sweets, smashed to smithereens.)
Place the sugar, golden syrup, black treacle, spices, zest and butter into a saucepan.
Heat over a medium heat until the butter and sugar have melted and emulsified.
Off the heat, add in the flour and bicarb.
Stir until the flour is incorporated into the butter mixture.
Turn the dough out and wrap in clingfilm. It’ll be incredibly soft and slightly warm, so work carefully. I like to make it fairly flat, so that it’s less work to roll out later.
Refrigerate for an hour. Preheat the oven to 180C. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/2cm thick. Using cookie cutters, cut shapes of your choosing.
For stained glass stars, use the largest star cutter to cut the main star, then use the smallest star cutter (of the same set) to get a star inside the first one.
Gently place your cookies onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. If you’re making stained glass stars, fill the middle of each star with the bashed up boiled sweets.
Leave a few centimetres of space around each cookie. Bake for 5 – 10 minutes, depending on the cookie size. When the cookies are slightly browned, try and move them along the tray with your thumb. If the cookies move, they are done and can be removed from the oven. Let them cool for 2 minutes on the trays before sliding them off, still on the baking paper, to cool completely on your counter-top. If you’ve made stars, use the top of a small piping nozzle or a knife to cut holes in the top of each star whilst they are still warm and slightly soft. Once they’re completely cool, thread through some festive ribbon and attach to your tree.