I think most people are feeling that this Christmas has arrived in a rush, I know I am. I am not sure if it is the drought or the extreme heat or the relentless news of bush-fires and alarming world events but I have had to dig deep to get into the festive spirit this year and I am not sure I am actually there yet. I thought sharing a few baking tips might help.
Christmas baking for me, is one way to fill the kitchen with reassuring aromas and some favourites have become traditional including small gingerbread houses. I find baking these wall parts well in advance and freezing them prior to Christmas helps to break up the work and simplifies the process when the time to build arrives. I make three houses each year, one for each of our children to decorate and one for me. Three houses guarantee that everyone can have their own creative control, ranging from lolly mountains to minimalism.
This is a large recipe but you can make houses and gingerbread shapes in one big batch with plenty leftover to give as gifts.
Normally I am not a decorative baker. I feel happier baking chocolate chip biscuits and sourdough bread than I do icing elaborate cakes and so I don’t aim for perfection when it comes to gingerbread houses. Instead I aim for something fun that we can put on the table for Christmas Day.
My houses stand around 8cm tall and making them this size is manageable in terms of sugar intake as well as from an engineering perspective! Another tip I have is to always use store bought royal icing. The ingredients list is rather frightening but it is almost guaranteed to hold your walls and rooftops together.
On Friday afternoon we all gathered around the table and built our respective little houses. We patiently took turns using the piping bag and even in the sweltering heat everyone shared ideas and offered encouragement which doesn’t always happen with a 13 year old and a 10 year old in close proximity to each other.
So, that is it. Tiny houses with some sparkles and icing will almost certainly bring some Christmas cheer to your home.
For those who have stuck with my updates this year, thank you. If you are in my part of the world stay cool and safe. For my overseas friends, stay warm and safe.
I am aiming for patience and kindness over the next few days and trying hard to let go of the small stuff.
Merry Christmas, friends x
Recipe originally from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook.
- 1125 g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1.5 tbsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 400 g butter at room temperature
- 400 g soft brown sugar
- 320 g golden syrup
- 1 egg
- 4 egg yolks
Sift flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and spices together in a large bowl.
Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large bowl and mix with a sturdy wooden spoon until pale and creamy. Alternatively, mix in a large stand mixer.
Add the egg and egg yolks in a slow stream and mix until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients, in three batches, until thoroughly mixed. Divide the dough into four portions and flatten each piece into a rough disk.
Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm or for up to three days.
Preheat oven to 170°C. Line several large trays with baking paper, set aside.
Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow to soften slightly. Roll out each disc between two sheets of baking paper until about 3mm thick.
Cut into desired shapes using biscuit cutters or a knife. Continue to re-roll to make use of all the dough.
Place the shapes on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake, in batches for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on trays.
There are many printable templates available online for gingerbread houses, in various sizes.
Cooked gingerbread freezes successfully.