Here for the festive season we’re in a bit of limbo. Not sure where we’ll be this year means shockingly I’ve not made of my traditional Christmas cakes or puddings as I may have nowhere to store them. However I wasn’t going to let Christmas go by without one special bake.
Thanks to a certain episode of Great British Bake Off we did begin to hatch a plan to make a gingerbread house to end all gingerbread houses with Design Engineer Hubs using Solidworks to design the template but various things threw a spanner in that works. Then Hubs decided he HAD to have the Star Wars Lego advent calendar and I had to have my own. As much as I lusted over the idea of a Paul A Young advent calendar I just couldn’t justify the £65 . During a trip to the wondrous Swedish warehouse of Ikea I spotted the set of Drömmar biscuit cutters. Yes I could have had their Christmas set, but frankly there isn’t enough squirrel and snail shaped baked goods in this world. I decided I would bake my own advent calendar as it would also be a perfect excuse to eat a daily biscuit and chance to practice my royal icing skills.
I initially planned to pipe the numbers on to the biscuits but after seeing the cakes The Vanilla Pod made for our Bonfire Party I decided to break with my fancy cutter ban and use my Tappit alphabet cutters. I usually don’t like the over-use of cutters on cakes and biscuits preferring to model or pipe by hand but I like the cleanness of the font. Don’t worry, you’ll never catch me using the Curlz font tappit cutters on my baking.
I was going to use lots of different colours, but ended up sticking to just red and white. I’m glad I did because sometimes the simplest colours scheme looks the best, plus it gives it a bit of the Scandi look to it.
This isn’t the quickest project and I did it in stages. Baked one day, iced the next then added the numbers the day after. I wanted the royal icing to set hard before sticking the numbers on. I now have big respect for Quirky Cookies & Biscuiteers as piping biscuits takes a great deal longer that I anticipated.
You must use Royal Icing to decorate biscuits as it needs to dry hard. I cheat and use the Silver Spoon Royal Icing mix as I find it works perfectly for me and it saves using egg whites. For the numbers I use a mixture of sugarpaste and floral (gum) paste. This works best in the Tappit cutters and dries quickly.
I am now addicted to piping royal icing. If it sits still for long enough it’ll get something piped on to it. Watch out business clients, friends and family. Guess what you’ll all be getting for Christmas?
Gingerbread Advent Calendar
Depending on the size of cutters you use this could make up to 40 biscuits. The leftover dough can be frozen either as a ball or in shapes ready to be baked straight from the freezer.
350g Plain Flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp of ground ginger
115g unsalted butter, cubed
170g soft dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp (40g) of golden syrup
milk (may not be needed, see recipe)
250g royal icing sugar
1) Preheat the oven to 180°c and cover 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
2) Rub together the flour, butter, ginger and bicarbonate of soda until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.
3) In a smaller bowl mix together the sugar, egg and golden syrup. Pour this in to the dry ingredients. To start with mix the dough with a spoon then once it is well combined use your hands to knead the dough. At first the mixture can seem quite dry but keep kneading. It will become soft and pliable. If required add a splash of milk to help the dough to come together. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 min.
4) Roll the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Cut out the shapes and place on baking sheet. Put the baking trays back in the fridge for another 30 min. This chilling stage is essential to stop the biscuits spreading.
5) Bake this gingerbread straight from the fridge for 15 min until slightly risen, beginning to colour and harden. If you are unsure, it is better to slightly over-bake (Don’t read that as burn!) than under-bake as you want quite hard, dry biscuits. They need to last for a month. Leave for 5 min then continue to cool completely on a wire rack. As they cool down they will continue to harden.
6) Make up your royal icing following instructions on packet, colour the icing as required and fill icing bags with size 0 piping tips.
7) First pipe the outline of the shapes. Allow to dry for 10-30 min.
8) Take the icing you have used for piping the outlines, squeeze into a bowl and add a small amount of water to make the icing thinner. This will be used to flood the gingerbread. It almost acts like self-levelling concrete. You want it thin enough to flood the spaces, but not too thin that it dribbles off the biscuit.
9) Flood the biscuits with the icing. If need be use a cocktail stick to help guide the icing in to corners. Allow to dry until hard. I usually give them a minimum of 12 hours to dry.
10) Decorate with the numbers. Store in a tin or airtight box and they should last until Christmas eve.