Le sapin de Noël est installé et décoré, les cadeaux sont emballés, et la ville est illuminée par des guirlandes de lumières. Le Noël s’approche!
It’s only four days until Christmas! I am finding this very hard to believe, as the lead-up to Christmas this year hasn’t been nearly as festive a usual. I did my Christmas shopping long ago, and haven’t had much time or inclination to do other Christmassy activities. We started listening to Christmas music at home this week, as we were all feeling a bit Grinch-like. In our house we listen to mainly traditional carols and Irish Christmas songs, as well as old classics like Bing Crosby’s original version of White Christmas. That being said, I also like Michael Bublé’s Christmas album, and James Taylor’s, too.
Last year I was in Paris for Christmas, and had been in London the week prior. It was my first time experiencing Christmas in winter, which I must say was a nice change from the 40ºC we often get here at Christmas. I remember this perfect moment from our time in London: it was about 5pm, and (it being London) the sun had already set. We were shopping on Regent Street, where every shop window had the most beautiful Christmas display, and Christmas lights were strung up across the road between the buildings. The sky was a deep navy blue, and although it had just started to rain, there were crowds of people everywhere, all hurrying to finish their shopping and get back to the train station. It seemed perfect to me, and I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly what Christmas should feel like.
While I’m a little sorry I won’t get to experience that again this year, I am nonetheless very grateful to be here with my little family, and to be able to continue our own traditions. One such tradition is the annual baking of gingerbread. Gingerbread is one of those Christmas foods that I absolutely refuse to confine to the festive season. It’s just too good, it deserves to be eaten year-round. It’s probably one of the things people request from me most often actually, and because I get such a large yield per batch, I always end up with plenty to give away.
I’ve added crystallised ginger to this recipe, which intensifies the ginger flavour. Be careful with this stuff though–it’s strong, and you don’t need very much of it. I’ve used 1 tablespoon of very finely diced crystallised ginger, but if you’re not a big ginger fan (or you’re making these for children), you can reduce the amount or eliminate it altogether. The flavour will still be delicious. I used the gingerbread spice mix that I use to make gingerbread waffles, but feel free to substitute your favourite store-bought blend or even try making your own!
Unsurprisingly, the size of cookie cutter you use will determine how many cookies you end up with. I used cookie cutters that were about 5cm long, and I got 44 cookies out of this batch. I ended up using three baking trays because the yield was so much larger than I expected. If you use larger cookie cutters, the yield will be much less. You can decorate the gingerbread men if you like (I didn’t, but that was simply for lack of any decorating supplies), just make sure that the cookies are completely cooled before you put any icing on them.
makes approximately 40 small cookies
100g butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2.25 cups gluten-free plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tbsp crystallised ginger, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp gingerbread spice mix
- Preheat oven to 170ºC. Line 3 baking trays with baking paper. [Note: the amount of trays you need will depend on the size of cookie cutters you are using]
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until pale in colour. Add molasses, and beat until the mix becomes a rich, dark brown.
- Add egg, and beat on low speed until the mix is pale and creamy.
- In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and gingerbread spice and whisk to combine. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three batches, beating between each addition. Once all the flour mix has been added, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes until a soft dough forms.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work bench. Roll out dough to 0.5cm thickness, cut out shapes using a cookie cutter and place on baking trays. Collect the dough trimmings together into a ball, roll out again, and continue cutting out shapes. Continue until all the dough has been used up.
- Bake each tray for 12-15 minutes [Note: cooking time will be dependent on the size of the cookie cutters you have used. Smaller cookies will take between 12 and 15 minutes, whereas larger cookies may take up to 17 minutes. You will know when they are cooked because they will no longer be sticky, and will give only slightly when touched. Keep in mind that they will harden as they cool down]. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the trays before eating or decorating.
Keeping time: 4 days in an airtight container.