Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011

A happy and healthy 2011 to everyone!  Wishing you many wonderful meals with your favourite people.

photo: SMH

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Festive gingerbread

Gingerbread men, modified from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe

We made these at the weekend to celebrate my little girl's first birthday. They went down really well, a whole batch were eaten within a few hours, despite gingerbread men easily outnumbering adults at the party! It was lots of fun decorating these too, but even a plain gingerbread man can put a smile on anyone's face. They keep really well, and definitely should be eaten outside Christmas time - too yummy to only eat for a few weeks of the year.

This makes quite a large quantity - approximately 24 gingerbread or more. Enough for your family and gifts!
400g plain flour
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
180g unsalted butter, room temp
125g soft dark brown sugar or dark muscovado
1 egg
125g black treacle (such as Tate & Lyle - available in larger Coles in Australia)
Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt) in a large bowl and set aside.
Put the butter and sugars in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attached (or handheld electric whisk) and cream on slow speed until light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat in the egg and treacle, scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Turn the mixer back down to slow and slowly add the dry ingredient mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time, stopping often to scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Once an even dough has formed, take it out of the mixer, divide into 3 and wrap each piece in glad wrap. Leave to rest over night to develop the flavours. If you don't have the time for this, rest for as long as possible.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 170C.
Take the dough out of the fridge and leave to soften for 5-10 mins.  Lightly dust a surface with flour and roll out the dough to about 4mm with a rolling pin. Cut out shapes with biscuit cutters. Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking trays and bake for 10-15 mins. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, especially if decorating!
Royal icing
1 egg white
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
310g icing sugar, sifted
Beat the egg white and lemon juice together in a freestanding mixer (paddle attachment) or handheld whisk. Gradually add the icing sugar, mixing well after each addition to ensure all sugar is incorporated. Whisk until you get stiff peaks. If icing is too runny, add a little more sugar. Stir in a few drops of food colouring if  desired. Tip – if you don’t have a piping bag, place mixture in a sandwich bag and snip off the corner to pipe through. Works a treat.
No need to keep to any formula with decorating - I think personalised gingerbread really talk. There are some great animal biscuit cutting sets at IKEA that could really come to life if baking with younger kids. For our birthday gingerbread, with dipped the feet into melted chocolate and immediately placed into a bowl of hundreds and thousands. They definitely had happy feet!

PS a huge thank you to Sarah for helping me out with little girl's birthday - she spent hours with me baking on a 30 degree day, not to mention decorating every type of sugared birthday delight. thank you