You know the Christmas season is well under way when you can feel your waistline expanding on an almost daily basis. So far I’m thoroughly enjoying cooking (and scoffing) my Christmas treats – I’ve had some delicious mince pies, there’s a Christmas cake waiting to be iced, and last weekend I enjoyed a full Christmas dinner of nut loaf, gravy, roasties, parsnips, caramelised veg and stuffing balls. Delicious! It’s just as well it was so tasty: the Simon Rimmer recipe we used for the nut loaf said it would serve 4-6 people, which sounds like a generous Christmas dinner plus leftovers for Monday. In reality, this loaf is best suited to a feed-the-500 scenario: it’s probably going to keep us going until Christmas 2012.
But December is all about indulgence, so I was back in the kitchen today to whip up a batch of gingerbread men. Anything with cinnamon or ginger in just smells so warm and wintery, it takes me back to the Christmas markets at home and to baked treats as a child. For that reason, I used the recipe book my mum used when we were kids – some hideous, beige Good Housekeeping monstrosity, completely lacking in glamour, that has nevertheless served us well. So here they are, some festive little gingerbread men.
(Makes about 18)
350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
175g soft light brown sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
1 egg, beaten
1. Grease 2 baking trays and preheat the oven to 190C.
2. Sift the flour, bicarb and ginger into a large bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Stir in the sugar, mixing until evenly coloured.
4. Add the syrup and egg and mix well, then use your hands to work it into a smooth dough.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out, and stamp out shapes using the cutter of your choice – I used a man, tree and star. Re-roll the trimmings to get more shapes.
6. Place the shapes onto the prepared trays, not too close as they spread a little, and bake for about 10 mins. Keep an eye on them – a few of mine came out a bit blackened on the bottom. Let them cool on a wire rack, if you have one: a plate seems to work just as well!
Decorate them as you like – you can put raisin eyes and buttons on them before baking, and icing afterwards.