As part of our festive foodie series we’ll be bringing you four deliciously fun and easy-to-make treats to try at home this Christmas. First up are these traditional Gingerbread decorations that are gorgeous to look at – and even better to eat.
As the month of December draws closer and shops and garden centres the country over proudly display their festive decorations, our attention turns towards choosing the perfect Christmas tree and of course deciding on how we are going to dress it.
Whether you like modern or traditional, colour themed or anything goes there’s something extra special about making your own decorations to hang on the tree or around your home. This simple recipe for delicious gingerbread cookies is one that all the family can take part in - the only difficult bit is making sure they end up on the tree without any body parts missing!
Gingerbread Christmas Cookies
Makes: 20 medium or 40 small cookies. Bake: 12-14 minutes
For the gingerbread
85g soft light brown sugar
200g treacle or use half treacle, half golden syrup
1½ tsp ground ginger
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
115g softened unsalted butter
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
440g plain flour, plus more for dusting and rolling
For the Royal icing
3 egg whites (90g)
400-500g icing sugar, shifted
½ tsp cream of tartar
• Preheat the oven to 170C. Line three large trays with baking paper. You will need to bake the gingerbread in batches.
• Put the sugar, treacle and spices in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
• Take off the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda – this will cause it to foam up.
• Add the butter and stir until it melts.
• Stir in the egg and transfer to a large bowl.
• Gradually add all the flour, stirring it in with a spoon or mixing with your hands.
• Tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and gently knead until pliable but not sticky. Dust with more flour if the dough is a bit sticky.
• Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half. Keep any dough you are not using covered in cling film.
• Dust your worktop with flour and use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out to a thickness of a pound coin.
• Cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters. Cut holes using a straw – one hole near the top to create tree decorations and two holes in chest area to turn into a wreath.
• Transfer the cookies to the prepared trays and bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through. Gather any scraps and repeat with the remaining dough.
• Leave to cool on the trays until firm. While the cookies are still a bit warm, enlarge the holes using a chopstick if they close up during baking.
• Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Start whisking on low speed until frothy.
• Increase the speed to maximum and start adding the icing sugar, a tablespoon at a time, once the egg whites form soft peaks. Continue to whisk until the icing forms firm peaks.
• Transfer some of the royal icing in decorating bottle fitted with a small round tip (or a piping bag) and decorate the cookies. Allow the icing to dry at room temperature until it hardens.
• Thread ribbon through the cookies to create tree decorations or a wreath (handle with care when transporting the wreath).
Keep the royal icing covered otherwise it will quickly dry out. If the icing is too thin you can add more icing sugar. If it is too thick, thin it with a little water. You can colour the icing using gel food colouring. You can also use store-bought royal icing or cookie icing.
See a video of this recipe and the finished decorations over on our Facebook page, where you can also enter into our Christmas competition by sharing your own decoration pictures and be in with a chance of winning £250 of John Lewis vouchers!