Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's the Gingerbread Men!

Gingerbread boys bringing home a Christmas tree in their all-weather snowmobile

Christmas is in the air! I can just smell it..... No. Wait. That's just the sweet scent of gingerbread baking in the oven, and it's actually beginning to smell a lot like Christmas! I'd better stop before I break into a silly song because these funny little brown men that could very well be in their own commercial for Old Spice are making me think funny too.

Oops, somebready didn't fasten his seatbelt

Anytime is a good time for gingerbread cookies (or men, to be more personal). It was actually Z who begged me to make them because he simply loves gingerbread. On the contrary, I am not a fan of gingerbread men, having tried the ones that the kids often buy from the supermarket, which are dry, crumbly and odd-tasting. The kids usually bite off the head and limbs, leaving behind the torso with the faint dimpled marks from the Smarties that used to sit there.

I have never made gingerbread of any sort before, and so after browsing through various recipes, I settled on one I found on The recipe uses golden syrup instead of blackstrap molasses which is thick and dark in colour, and slightly bitter. It's sort of an acquired taste, and one that I have not acquired. The golden syrup, on the other hand, makes a fantastic gingerbread cookie that smells and tastes divine, with the warmth from the ginger and spices and none of the "bitterness" of molasses.

Gingerbread people sleeping among the trees and beneath the stars

Gingerbread men, trees, or angry little birds, whatever your kids desire, are pretty easy to make, and the fun is in the decorating (that's where it can get messy too, especially if you're making them with kids). I placed the icing used a ziploc bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner, and used that to pipe the outline on the cookies. Then I added some colouring to part of the icing with a few drops of hot water to make a runny icing to flood the centres of the piped outlines. I didn't use a piping bag or bottle for those though. I found that using toothpicks worked fine especially to fill out those corners. It reminded me of how I used to do stained glass painting, using pretty much the same technique.

Everyone loves a Win-tree Tree-ple Sweet Tre(e)at (no tree-cle used, only golden syrup!)

If you've only ever had store-bought or mass-produced gingerbread men, you should try these out. It would be fun for the kids too. Z enjoyed helping to measure out the ingredients and do some of the decorating. These gingerbread cookies came out just how I like them, not too hard and slightly soft in the middle, with a sweet hint of ginger, and a texture that simply melts in your mouth. We all loved them!

Gingerbread Men Recipe
Adapted from


125g butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
1 egg, separated
375g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Plain flour, to dust

150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted
2-3 drops red liquid food colouring
2-3 drops green liquid food colouring
A few drops hot water
Smarties, to decorate


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking/parchment paper.
  2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour to rest.
  3. Meanwhile, place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 3 bowls. Cover 1 bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Add red colouring to 1 bowl and stir until combined. Add green colouring to remaining bowl and stir until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
  4. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 8mm thick. Use a gingerbread man (or other) cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart. Repeat with any excess dough.
  5. Bake in oven for 8-9 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven and leave to cool on the tray.
  6. Place prepared icings in small plastic bags. Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread men to decorate. Finish with Smarties, cachous or sprinkles.
  7. Optional: To make a runny icing, add a few drops of hot water to the prepared icing and use it for flooding the centres of the outlined designs. Use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles that may appear on the flooded centres.

Now you see him.............................................................Now you don't....................!!!